Iowa Slaughterhouse Manager Acquitted of Child Labor Violations

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An Iowa child labor case that gained national attention because of the more than 9,000 violations brought against a slaughterhouse manager has resulted in a total of zero convictions, after the former Agriprocessors Inc. manager was found not guilty of all charges Monday.

Sholom Rubashkin, who faced 9,311 child labor charges stemming from an immigration enforcement action 2008 – a number gradually whittled down to 67 misdemeanors before an Iowa state court in Waterloo – was acquitted after prosecutors were unable to persuade the jury that Rubashkin “intentionally, willingly and knowingly” hired minors at the Postville, Iowa-based plant.

Rubaskin’s five-week trial included testimony from dozens of former Agriprocessors employees, many of whom said they were illegal immigrants with false documents showing they were 18 or older at the time they were hired at the slaughterhouse. The jury foreman told the Des Moines Register that the testimony of the state’s witnesses, some of whom prosecutors had flown in for the trial from Mexico and Guatemala, as what convinced the jury Rubashkin could not have known he was hiring minors.

Prosecutors also had alleged that Rubashkin overworked the minors – allowing them to work as much as 90 hours a week – and placed them in dangerous conditions, using power saws and knives and surrounded by  bleach and dry ice.

Rubashkin remains in prison awaiting sentencing after being convicted on 86 counts of bank fraud in Iowa federal court inNovember. Sentencing was delayed until after the conclusion of the state trial and is now scheduled for June 22.

Agriprocessors, once the nation’s largest producer of kosher meat, has collapsed as a result of the May 12, 2008 federal raid of the Postville plant.  

  • Sarah

    Nathan Lewin: Sholom Rubashkin has been the victim of a vicious public smear campaign, and he is entitled to recover his reputation.

    Almost a quarter of a century ago Raymond Donovan, secretary of labor in the Reagan administration, was acquitted by a jury of larceny and fraud charges. His reaction, as quoted in the next day’s news stories, was, “Where do I go now to get my reputation back?”

    Sholom Rubashkin can ask the same question. The attorney general of Iowa was not content to make a reasonable prosecutorial presentation of his claim that Rubashkin knowingly hired employees under the age of 18. He was obviously envious of the federal prosecutors who had monopolized national headlines with their highly publicized raid on Agriprocessors and with the colorful photograph of Rubashkin taken in handcuffs by federal marshals after his unnecessary arrest.

    Rubashkin’s lawyers had informed the prosecutors that he would surrender voluntarily if notified that charges against him were going to be filed – the customary procedure utilized in white-collar criminal investigations. Instead, successfully seeking to grab his own headlines, Attorney General Tom Miller chose to charge Rubashkin with 9,311 counts of violations of Iowa’s labor laws.

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