A U.S. federal judge Monday sentenced Agriprocessors meat packing plant manager Sholom Rubashkin to 27 years in jail for financial fraud, two weeks after he was found not guilty on charges of violating child labor laws.
His lawyers protested the sentence, which defense lawyer Guy Cook called “greater than necessary [and] greater than what the government asked for. It is unfair and excessive, essentially a life sentence for a 51-year-old man, and is not in the public interest."
The sentence handed down by Judge Linda Reade also called on Rubashkin to return approximately $30 million to financial institutions, but she indicated that she would not impose a fine.
Federal authorities raided the Iowa processing plant two years ago and discovered that the Agriprocessors firm was employing nearly 400 illegal immigrants.
Attorney Bob Barr, in announcing the decision to appeal the verdict, stated, "This sentence is inconsistent with the overwhelming view of the legal community, including six former U.S. attorneys general, who have all said a first-time, non-violent offense does not warrant a multi-decade sentence."
Rubashkin's attorneys had asked the court to impose a sentence no greater than 72 months, noting his positive history and character and his extraordinary family circumstances.
"It is heartbreaking to see the judge and the prosecution make an example out of Sholom Rubashkin at the expense of his family and his community," said Rubashkin’s wife, Leah. "What has happened today is inconsistent with the idea of equal justice under the law. All we have asked is that he be treated the same as everyone else."
Supporters for Rubashkin pointed out that a Missouri bank president who misapplied $35 million in loans, resulting in a loss of approximately $25 million, was recently sentenced by a federal judge to only one year and one day in prison.