Slaughterhouse Boss Acquitted of Child Labor Charges

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An Iowa child labor case that gained national attention because of the more than 9,000 violation allegations against a slaughterhouse manager has resulted in a total of zero convictions. The former Agriprocessors manager was found not guilty on all charges last month.

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

Rubashkin’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 when they were hired. The jury foreman told The Des Moines Register that the testimony of the state’s witnesses convinced the jury that 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, surrounded with power saws, knives, bleach and dry ice.

Rubashkin didn’t go free, though. He was later sentenced to 27 years in prison after having been convicted of bank fraud in Iowa federal court last November, in an unreleated case.