Trump commutes sentence of kosher meatpacking CEO Rubashkin
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Trump commutes sentence of kosher meatpacking CEO Rubashkin

White House cites letters of support from lawmakers and others saying 27-year jail term handed down for bank fraud excessive

Defense attorney Montgomery Brown, right, and Sholom Rubashkin talk during the trial of Rubashkin, on state child labor charges on May 14, 2010, at the Black Hawk County Courthouse in Waterloo, Iowa. (Andrea Melendez/AP, Pool)
Defense attorney Montgomery Brown, right, and Sholom Rubashkin talk during the trial of Rubashkin, on state child labor charges on May 14, 2010, at the Black Hawk County Courthouse in Waterloo, Iowa. (Andrea Melendez/AP, Pool)

US President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of former kosher meat executive Sholom Rubashkin Wednesday, citing concerns about the Iowa slaughterhouse boss’s 27-year prison term.

Rubashkin, who was manager at the Agriprocessors meat plant in Postville, Iowa, was convicted in 2009 of financial fraud for submitting fake invoices to the plant’s bank that made the company’s finances appear healthier than they were so that it could borrow more. His prosecution came after federal authorities raided the plant and arrested 389 illegal immigrants in 2008.

“Mr. Rubashkin has now served more than 8 years of that sentence, which many have called excessive in light of its disparity with sentences imposed for similar crimes,” read a statement from the White House Wednesday.

The statement said Trump was not issuing a pardon, meaning Rubashkin, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement, will still be under parole and will need to make good on a restitution judgement.

The White House noted that Rubashkin, 57, is a father of 10, and included a list of legislators and others who had supported commuting his sentence, including Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Orrin Hatch.

Aron Schimmel, the Chabad emissary in Postville, says the Iowa town’s Jewish community shrunk significantly after the Rubashkin scandal. (Josh Tapper)

“A bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking and distinguished Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the evidentiary proceedings in Mr. Rubashkin’s case and the severity of his sentence,” the White House statement read.

Rubashkin’s long-time attorney Guy Cook praised the decision, saying his client “has finally received justice.”

“The sentence previously imposed was unfair, unjust and essential a life sentence,” he said via email. “President Trump has done what is right and just. The unrelenting efforts on Rubashkin’s behalf have finally paid off.”

Last year, more than 100 former judges, attorneys general and prominent politicians signed a letter supporting Rubashkin, who was running the country’s largest slaughterhouse at the time of his arrest.

Among the signers were John Ashcroft, Michael Mukasey, Edwin Meese III and Ramsey Clark, who served as attorneys general under Presidents George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson, respectively. Others include the former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

In 2012, more than 80 former federal judges supported an unsuccessful request to the US Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the Rubashkin case.

The largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States is located in Postville, Iowa, and has been renamed Agri Star. (Josh Tapper)

The raid on the Agriprocessors plant and Rubashkin’s arrest led to the plant’s temporary closure, with many of the town’s Jews leaving.

Canadian billionaire Hershey Friedman, of Montreal, purchased the meatpacking plant in 2009 and rebranded it as Agri Star Meat and Poultry. Agri Star now employs the vast majority of Postville’s remaining Jews, with most of them serving as Jewish ritual slaughterers.

AP contributed to this report.

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