Justice Dept. again won’t intervene in Rubashkin case

NEW YORK (JTA) — The U.S. Department of Justice again has declined to intervene in the sentencing of a convicted kosher meat executive. 

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer wrote in a letter Monday that concerns about the sentencing of former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin were best raised with the presiding judge in northern Iowa, Linda Reade, or with local federal prosecutors. 

Breuer’s letter, addressed to Rubashkin’s attorney Nathan Lewin, follows several appeals for examination of the case. Federal prosecutors are seeking a hefty sentence for Rubashkin’s conviction on fraud charges. Sentencing is due to take place this month. 

Two weeks ago, federal prosecutors submitted a sentencing memorandum in the case in which they calculated that Rubashkin’s crimes resulted in a score on a federal sentencing guidelines scale that correlates with life imprisonment. The memo prompted expressions of outrage from a number of Jewish leaders and led to a series of letters to the Department of Justice and Reade seeking redress.

In a letter Monday to Reade, former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman and former Iowa federal judge Paul Cassell wrote that the sentencing guidelines would seem to call for a harsher sentence than if Rubashkin had been convicted of murder, kidnapping or rape. 

"In fact, the Government’s guidelines calculations are so flawed that they imply that his sentence should be the same as if Mr. Rubashkin had committed first degree murder," Tolman and Cassell wrote. "Such a lengthy sentence would clearly be disproportionate to his offenses."

Separately, Lewin wrote Breuer on April 11 asking that Justice Department attorneys be assigned to investigate the conduct of the Iowa prosecutors. Breuer also received a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which described the sentencing recommendation as "grotesque."

Federal immigration officers raided the Agriprocessors Postville plant in 2008, arresting hundreds of employees setting the company on a slow slide towards bankruptcy. Prosecutors dropped immigration charges against Rubashkin in November, just days after a jury convicted him on 86 counts of financial fraud. 

Breuer’s letter marks the second time Justice Department officials have declined to get involved in the case. Following a January letter to Attorney General Eric Holder from a coalition of rabbis asking for reconsideration of the case, a department official responded that the case had been "fully litigated" and there was nothing more to be done.

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