The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) have reportedly filed amicus briefs with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, supporting the efforts of counsel for Sholom Rubashkin to overturn his conviction and sentence for financial fraud at his Iowa meat processing facility. The kosher plant was raided in 2008, 389 undocumented workers were arrested, and Rubashkin was initially charged with violating immigration laws. These charges were ultimately dropped, and a jury acquitted him of hiring underage workers. Prosecutors then aggressively pursued charges that he falsified bank records to inflate sales and diverted customer payments for personal use, and he was found guilty on 86 counts in November 2009.
The court sentenced Rubashkin to 27 years in prison, a term longer than recommended by prosecutors. While the ACLU and NACDL reportedly focus their briefs on accusations that the sentencing court improperly cooperated with prosecutors before Rubashkin’s arrest, the Washington Legal Foundation, joined by a number of law professors and former federal judges, argues in its amicus brief that the sentence was unreasonably harsh and raises “important procedural and substantive issues that arise in many white-collar sentencings.”
Rubashkin’s counsel apparently discovered after he was sentenced that the court had undisclosed, ex parte discussions with prosecutors and immigration officials before the raid. Rubashkin and amici contend that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records show that the court, by discussing charging strategies and raid logistics with prosecutors, was not impartial and actively participated in Rubashkin’s prosecution. They call for a new judge to hear his motion for a new trial, calling for Rubashkin to “get his day in court” with a tribunal that is not an arm of the prosecution. See The National Law Journal, January 29, 2011.