(JTA) — Supporters of jailed kosher meat executive Sholom Rubashkin who signed an online petition on the White House’s We the People website received a reply saying the White House cannot comment on the matter.
The petition, which calls on President Obama to order an investigation into judicial misconduct in Rubashkin’s financial fraud trial, garnered more than 52,000 signatures.
In an e-mail titled "Why We Can’t Comment," the White House notes that it at times declines to comment in response to petitions on certain matters that fall under the jurisdiction of other government entities, including specific law enforcement and judicial ethics issues. It noted that the Justice Department has mechanisms in place to investigate allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and the judicial branch is responsible for investigating claims of judicial misconduct.
"This petition calls for an investigation into allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the case of Sholom Rubashkin and for action to correct the ‘gross injustice’ in his case. For the reasons given above, the White House declines to comment on matters raised by this petition."
On Sept. 26, a federal appeals court in St. Louis turned down a motion for a new trial for the former chief executive of Agriprocessors, once the nation’s largest kosher meat producer. The court ruled that the presiding judge in the original case, Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, did not have to recuse herself due to her involvement with the May 2008 federal immigration raid on the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, that preceded the company’s bankruptcy later that year. Reade had met with prosecutors and immigration authorities before the raid to discuss the logistical preparations that needed to be made by the justice system.
Rubashkin was convicted of financial fraud in 2009 and sentenced to 27 years in prison, two more years than requested by prosecutors. He is serving his sentence in New York state.
Several dozen members of Congress and some U.S. attorneys general had written in favor of greater leniency in Rubashkin’s sentencing. In the federal raid on the plant, 389 illegal immigrants were arrested, including 31 minors.
The petition called on Obama to "To take prompt and effective steps to correct the gross injustice that has been perpetrated with the federal prosecution of Sholom Rubashkin."