Sholom Rubashkin, who managed a kosher meatpacking facility in Postville, Iowa, and was convicted on 86 counts related to financial fraud, lost the appeal of his conviction and the 324-month prison sentence imposed by a federal district court. United States v. Rubashkin, Nos. 10-2487/3580 (8th Cir., decided September 16, 2011). Additional details about the case appear in Issue 378 of this Update.
Among other matters, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that evidence indicating that the trial court judge met with prosecutors before the facility was raided by immigration officials was insufficient to show bias against Rubashkin or that “the district court’s decision to remain on the case prejudiced Rubashkin’s verdict.” The court also found no fault in the trial court severing the bank fraud charges from the immigration law violations, which the government later dismissed, and trying the bank fraud charges first. According to the appeals court, “Given the evidentiary overlap between the charges in the two trials, Rubashkin’s testimony at an earlier immigration trial could have been used against him in a subsequent financial trial. Under all the circumstances the district court’s scheduling order was a practical solution given the nature and number of the charges.”
The court also upheld various evidentiary rulings, jury instructions and convictions, as well as the length of the prison term, which was longer than recommended by prosecutors, despite arguments by amici that it was unreasonably harsh. In this regard, the court stated, “Not only was Rubashkin’s sentence of 324 months within the guideline range, it was at the low end of it. . . . Under all the circumstances the district court did not abuse its considerable discretion in imposing a 324 month sentence.”