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Sholom Rubashkin sentence: just deserts, anti-Semitism or both?

cattle at a slaughterhouse

Sholom Rubashkin, former CEO of the Agriprocessors kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa—which made national headlines when it was the target of a massive ICE raid of undocumented workers in 2008—this week filed an appeal of his conviction to the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Rubashkin was convicted in November 2009 of 86 counts of fraud stemming from a $26.8 million loss to lenders after the immigration raid found nearly 400 undocumented workers at his plant. Although the indictment included charges of harboring unauthorized immigrants for profit, federal prosecutors opted not to pursue the immigration charges after the fraud conviction. A state trial acquitted him of knowingly employing underage workers.

Defense attorneys had asked for a six-year term, citing Rubashkin's 10 children, faith-based philanthropy and other contributing factors for leniency. Instead, he got 27 years at his June sentencing—which some have protested as anti-Semitism. Agudath Israel, an ultra-Orthodox organization, called it "a dark day" for both American justice and American Jewry. "While none of us condones any wrongdoing by Mr. Rubashkin, the extraordinary severity of the sentence imposed upon one of our Jewish brothers sends chills of shock and apprehension down our collective spine," the statement reads. "This is a horrifying development." (Des Moines Register, Jan. 6; Religion News Service, June 23, 2010)

World War 4 Report turned for comment to Jane Guskin and David L. Wilson, co-authors of The Politics of Immigration: Questions & Answers (Monthly Review, 2007). Says Guskin: "Disgraceful that he wasn't nailed for the labor, health & safety, and wage & hour conditions at his factory. Disgraceful that he has to pay back his lenders while the detained & deported workers get nothing."

Wilson wryly weighed in on the anti-Semitism question: "To be honest, I think there's a pattern in our country that whenever rich white people get so far out of line that one of them has to be sent to the slammer to show that there's no impunity here...the sacrificial victim never seems to have a name like 'Cabot Lodge Saltonstall III.' The names are more like 'Michael Millken,' 'Leona Helmsley' and 'Sholom Rubashkin.'"

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