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Are Chances Rising for Rubashkin Pardon?

Eytan Kobre

Could the end of President Obama’s presidency mean an Agriprocessors pardon?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


GUILTY UNTIL? Rubashkin advocates, including Renfrew and Reynolds, say prosecutors’ meddling helped to vastly reduce the eventual sale price for Agriprocessors, and consequently, the amount available to Rubashkin for reimbursement of the bank he was convicted of defrauding (Photos: AP)

A s his term concludes in January, pressure builds on President Obama to pardon Sholom Rubashkin, the former kosher meat-industry executive in Postville, Iowa, who has served seven years of a draconian 27-year sentence following a bank fraud conviction.

The Orthodox Jewish community has long worked to secure the release of the 57-year-old father of ten from a sentence that most legal scholars view as grossly incommensurate with his crime. The efforts on his behalf have not, however, been limited to the Orthodox community.

Last week, Charles Renfrew, a former federal judge and US deputy attorney-general, and James Reynolds, a former US attorney in Iowa, jointly authored an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging Obama to pardon Rubashkin. Renfrew and Reynolds briefly outlined the evidence newly discovered by Rubashkin’s defense team showing that the prosecutors in the case had improperly interfered in the sale of Agriprocessors, the Rubashkin family’s meat production company.

In a telephone interview with Mishpacha, Reynolds said that he is aware of efforts underway to prepare a pardon request for presentation to the presidential pardon office, although he is not involved in that process. A separate motion has already been made in the US District Court in Iowa for a reduction of Rubashkin’s sentence based on the new revelations of prosecutorial misconduct. Rubashkin advocates, including Renfrew and Reynolds, say prosecutors’ meddling helped to vastly reduce the eventual sale price for Agriprocessors, and consequently, the amount available to Rubashkin for reimbursement of the bank he was convicted of defrauding.

The Rubashkin defense team alleges the prosecutors then solicited false testimony to conceal their interference in the sale of the company. Since federal sentencing guidelines link the length of a prison sentence for bank fraud to the extent of the bank’s loss (and since the bank’s loss grew with the low sale price of Agriprocessors), the prosecutors’ actions effectively helped extend the sentence handed down to Rubashkin to a staggering 27 years.


Reflecting on what motivated him to co-author the opinion piece in the Journal, Reynolds said it was the fact that the unjust sentence was meted out in the office in which he had once served as US Attorney.

“I can’t understand what precipitated the disproportionate treatment Mr. Rubashkin received,” Reynolds said. “There are cases you think will go nowhere and end up as a cause célèbre, and others, like this one, that ought to be a cause célèbre, yet nobody pays any attention to them.” This past April, a bipartisan group of leading law enforcement officials and legal scholars wrote to the US Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, Kevin Techau, asking him to reopen the case based on “evidence that prosecutors in your office knowingly presented false and misleading testimony at the sentencing hearing.” To date, Techau has not responded.

The power to grant pardons is vested in the president alone. No hearing is held on the pardon application by either the Department of Justice or the White House. A petitioner is notified in writing when a final decision is made.

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