On June 25, 2009, the district judge severed the immigration law charges from the financial charges. The court explained that â€œseverance is necessary to preserve the rights of Defendants Rubashkin and Agriprocessors to a fair trial.â€ Notwithstanding a â€œstrong presumption in the law in favor of joinder and against severance,â€ the court concluded that trying the immigration and financial counts in a single proceeding â€œwould prevent a jury from making a reliable judgment about the guilt or innocenceâ€ of the accused. On July 6, 2009, over defense objection that evidence of immigration law violations would taint the bank-fraud trial if it were held first, the judge granted the prosecutorsâ€™ request that the financial charges be tried first.
Substantial local publicity and media attention surrounded this prosecution, which was initially brought in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is in the same part of the state as the Agriprocessors plant. The district court initially denied a motion for a change of venue on account of prejudicial publicity, but after the judge reviewed jury questionnaires she determined that â€œprejudice from pretrial publicity in this action is so extensive and corrupting that it may presume unfairness of a constitutional magnitude.â€ The completed jury questionnaires demonstrated â€œthat the prodigious amount of negative pretrial publicity has caused the vast majority of potential jurors to develop and maintain a pervasive, strong bias againstâ€ Mr. Rubashkin and Agriprocessors. The court therefore ordered that the trial be moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.