Rubashkin appeals denial of bail


NEW YORK (JTA) — Lawyers for the former head of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse asked a judge to reconsider his decision to deny bail.

In court documents filed Dec. 5, lawyers for Sholom Rubashkin made a substantial argument over the fact that the original detention order deeming Rubashkin a flight risk cited Israel’s Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to every Jew. Some Jews saw the ruling as setting a dangerous precedent that could be used to deny bail to Jewish defendants solely on the basis of their religion.

The attorneys also proposed three additional measures to ensure that Rubashkin will not flee. They are hiring 24-hour security to monitor Rubashkin and enforce his compliance with any court-ordered restrictions; executing a waiver of extradition, making it easier to return Rubashkin to the United States if he were to flee the country; and posting any additional security demanded by the court. The Rubashkin family would pay for round-the-clock monitoring. 

Rubashkin, the former supervisor of the Agriprocessors meatpacking facility in Postville, was arrested in late October on charges relating to the hiring of illegal workers at the plant. While free on bond, he was arrested a second time and charged with bank fraud.

Following his second arrest, a federal judge magistrate denied bail to Rubashkin after deeming him a flight risk. Prosecutors alleged that a travel bag with money, silver coins and passports were found in his house and warned that Israeli law granted automatic citizenship to Jews. They also noted that two former Agriprocessors employees suspected of crimes are believed to have fled to Israel.

Rubashkin’s attorneys countered that he is deeply connected to his family and the Postville community — several members agreed to put up the equity in their homes to guarantee his appearance in court.

In their filing, the attorneys took issue with the court’s determination that Jewish rights under Israel’s Law of Return argue against releasing Rubashkin.

“Consequently, under that view, ‘every Jew’ is to be viewed for bail purposes as a greater risk of flight than a non-Jew," the filing states. "That means that 5,300,000 Americans would be viewed as heightened bail risks simply because they are Jews.”

The attorneys noted that category would include the current attorney general of the United States as well as two Supreme Court justices before adding, “It is ironic that a law designed to provide refuge to persecuted Jews has now become the basis for detaining a Jew who might otherwise have been released pending trial.”

The filing cited several recent cases involving Jewish or Israeli defendants released on bail “involving a much greater risk of flight and far more contacts with Israel than are present here.” It also asserted that no instance could be identified in which prosecutors invoked the Law of Return to argue against releasing a Jewish defendant.

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