FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump and the Meat Tycoon: Backstory to a Commutation

After he served 8 years of a 27-year sentence for money laundering, kosher meatpacking executive Sholom Rubashkin had his sentence commuted.

On May 14, 2008, hundreds of officers from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) swooped down on Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, with helicopters in the largest single-site raid in US history, arresting half of the eight-hundred-person workforce. Two hundred and ninety Guatemalans, ninety-three Mexicans, two Israelis, and four Ukrainians were marched off to a waiting phalanx of buses and vans and a makeshift detention center.

Initial charges against Agriprocessors’s employees included harboring illegal aliens, use of child labor, document fraud, identity theft, physical and sexual abuse of workers, unsafe working conditions, wage and hour violations, and shorting workers’ pay. According to the search warrant, one thousand discrepancies between worker names and social security numbers occurred in three years. There was even a methamphetamine production plant existing within the slaughterhouse, sanctioned by management. At the time Barack Obama, then an Illinois senator, weighed in on Agriprocessors. “They have kids in there wielding buzz saws and cleavers. It’s ridiculous,” he said during a campaign stop in Davenport, Iowa.

Three hundred workers served federal prison sentences of five months for identity theft, and human resources managers and floor supervisors were convicted of felony charges of harboring illegal immigrants. Agriprocessors itself filed for bankruptcy. While thousands of child-labor charges were initially filed against Agriprocessors’s owner, Aaron Rubashkin; his son Sholom; and others, the charges were dropped as prosecutors unspooled elaborate financial wrongdoing at the plant, which they pursued instead.

In 2008, Sholom Rubashkin was convicted of eighty-six counts of federal-bank fraud in connection with loans to the company, including fabricating fake collateral for loans, ordering employees to create false invoices, and laundering millions through a secret bank account in the name of Torah Education, reported the New York Times. Sentencing documents also suggest the Postville mayor, Robert Penrod, may have received or extorted money from Agriprocessors to discourage unionizing at the plant.

The immigration raid was not Agriprocessors’ first troubles. In 2004, an undercover video showed cows very much alive after being “slaughtered” and having their throats cut, and it led to a USDA investigation that “reported many violations of animal cruelty laws at the plant,” says the New York Times. A year and a half after the cruelty video, the Forward paid a visit to Postville and reopened public scrutiny. Hundreds of semi-indentured immigrant employees were working ten- to twelve-hour shifts, six days a week, for $6.25 to $7 a hour, wrote the newspaper calling them “the impoverished humans who do the factory’s dirty work.”

Before the immigration raid, Agriprocessors had six Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations in one year, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints that supervisors extorted bribes from workers. Employees were untrained and unprotected from dangerous equipment, reported the Forward. Two workers required amputations in one month, and one was still working at the plant with a hand missing when the Forward visited, “hoping to collect enough to pay off his debts back home.”

After the immigration raid, prosecutors asked for a life sentence for the young Sholom Rubashkin, citing his lawlessness and lack of remorse, more than one dozen former US attorneys cried to the judge: Unfair! “We cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence—or anything close to it—for Mr. Rubashkin, a 51-year-old, first-time, nonviolent offender,” said a letter signed by former attorney generals Janet Reno, William Barr, Richard Thornburgh, Edwin Meese III, Ramsey Clark, and Nicholas Katzenbach.

Nonviolent if you leave out what happened to the workers and the animals at Agriprocessors.

More articles by:

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail