In September 2008 Mr. Rubashkin was charged by the Iowa Attorney General with 9,311 counts for hiring underage workers. The State did so notwithstanding the fact that the investigating agency, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, did not complete its initial report in the case until January 2009. Moreover, the Stateâ€™s investigation continued after January 2009; it was only the initial report that was completed in that month.
The hasty nature of the Stateâ€™s prosecution decision became apparent later in the case. First, the State dismissed the charges against Aaron Rubashkin entirely without any quid pro quo or concession from Aaron.
Further, the State on the eve of trial amended its complaint to reduce the number of charges against Sholom from 9,311 to 83. This was an implicit recognition that a complaint with 9,311 charges was so unwieldy as to make a fair and efficient jury trial impossible.
Moreover, the Stateâ€™s amended complaint containing 83 counts included 16 counts based upon the employment of five alleged minors whom the State knew would never testify in court. In fact, those five minors were not even listed on the Stateâ€™s final witness list submitted to the court before trial. For this reason, following closing arguments, the judge allowed only 67 counts to be presented to the jury.
The State presented no evidence at trial of extortion, sexual abuse, forced labor, or other similar allegations. Any claim by the State that it has evidence of such things has not been aired in a public courtroom, much less has it been the subject of any civil or criminal charge.
Witnesses who had experience in meat packing plants other than Agriprocessors testified that the working conditions, cleanliness, and makeup of the workforce at Agriprocessors were either typical or above average for meat packing plants in general. There was no evidence to suggest that Agriprocessors was different or worse than other plants in these areas.
In the end, the jury found Sholom innocent of all charges related to the employment of underage workers at Agriprocessorsâ€™ Postville kosher meatpacking plant. The juryâ€™s verdict vindicated Mr. Rubashkinâ€™s assertion that he had no knowledge of underage workers at the plant.
The verdict also raised serious questions about the validity of the federal bank fraud conviction. Following the not-guilty verdict, Mr. Rubashkinâ€™s trial attorney, Guy Cook, said, â€œSholom Rubashkin was irrefutably harmed during the federal trial by being falsely portrayed as responsible for the employment of illegal workers. We believe this had a profound impact on the jury, and tainted the federal trial. If the federal jury had been permitted to hear both sides of the issue, they would probably have found that Sholom Rubashkin was not responsible for the employment of illegal workers.â€