Tomorrow, the Supreme Court is expected to announce whether it will review the case of Sholom Rubashkin, who has attained cause celebre status for the remarkable events surrounding his trial and sentencing. Everything about this case is BIG. Months of planning and hundreds of agents went into pulling off a 2009 raid at Rubashkin's kosher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. More than 375 workers were arrested -- many ultimately deported -- and hundreds of charges lodged against Rubashkin alleging child labor and immigration law violations. He was acquitted of every one.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors transformed one count of bank fraud into more than 90 counts by the time the case went to trial. Rubashkin was convicted on most, and the government dropped its next bomb: It planned to ask the judge to impose a sentence of life in prison. This was too much for 23 former high-ranking Department of Justice officials and U.S. Attorneys. They sent an unprecedented letter to the judge decrying the audacity of the proposal. The government blinked and reduced its request to 25 years.
On June 21, 2010, Judge Linda Reade sentenced this first time, nonviolent, well-regarded defendant to 27 years in federal prison.
Only after the trial did the defense receive stunning news. Judge Reade had met secretly and repeatedly with prosecutors and law enforcement in the months before the agents descended on the plant, helping to plan the raid and coordinate the processing of arrested workers. Legal experts cried foul, and Rubashkin's counsel raised serious questions about Judge Reade's objectivity and investment in ensuring a harsh outcome. Those ex parte meetings, as well as how the judge arrived at the functional life sentence for Mr. Rubashkin, are the grounds for the cert petition the Court is considering today. continue...