IOWA CITY, Iowa — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review a 27-year prison term given to a former kosher slaughterhouse executive convicted of financial fraud following a huge immigration raid at an Iowa meatpacking plant.
Without comment, justices declined to consider an appeal filed by former Agriprocessors Inc. vice president Sholom Rubashkin as they opened their new term. The decision lets stand Rubashkin’s conviction on 86 counts of financial misconduct and a prison term that could lock up the 52-year-old for the rest of his life.
Rubashkin was convicted in 2009 of bilking the Postville plant’s lender out of $27 million by submitting fake invoices that made the company’s finances appear healthier than they were so that it could borrow more money. His arrest came after federal immigration authorities raided the plant and arrested 389 illegal immigrants in 2008 in what was, at the time, the largest such workplace raid in the nation.
Rubashkin had argued that U.S. District Judge Linda Reade, who presided over his trial, could not be impartial because records showed she met with investigators to plan the logistics of the immigration raid. He also argued his prison term was too long for a first-time, nonviolent offender.
Rubashkin hired Paul Clement, a top Washington lawyer and former solicitor general under President George W. Bush, to pursue the appeal, which the American Civil Liberties Union, a group of former attorneys general and other legal experts also supported. Clement’s office didn’t immediately return a phone message.
“This is a sad day for justice in America,” said Des Moines attorney Guy Cook, who represented Rubashkin at trial and is still involved in his defense. “It is remarkable the Court would ignore the many briefs submitted by a cross section of legal experts urging the court to review the case.”
In urging justices to deny the appeal, the Office of the Solicitor General argued Rubashkin failed to prove that Reade should have recused herself or that he suffered any actual bias as a result. Reade has said that she was never informed who the target of the raid would be or where it would take place. Instead, she was involved in bringing in enough judges and court staff to have hearings at an offsite location, the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, which was used because of the large number of defendants.
The solicitor general’s office also noted that Rubashkin’s sentence was within advisory guidelines.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence last year.