By COLlive and Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
The jury in the fraud trial of Sholom Rubashkin returned guilty verdicts in 86 of the 91 fraud charges he faced Thursday.
Shock and disbelief are being expressed among Chassidic circles who benefited from the kosher meat plant he managed.
Lawyers closed their cases Monday with clashing portraits of the former executive of Agriprocessors in the Postville eastern town of Iowa.
Prosecutors painted Rubashkin as the ringleader of an enormous fraud and immigrant-harboring scheme that festered at the plant for years. Defense lawyers said the charges stemmed from overzealous prosecutors who failed to prove their allegations.
A seven-woman, five-man jury found Rubashkin, 50 and father of 10, guilty of 91 federal fraud crimes and not guilty of five counts of violating a law requiring payment of livestock to providers within 24 hours.
Prayers and Tehillim were said around the world for Rubashkin, son of a wealthy Chassidic family who contributed large funds to charity and founded the Postville Jewish community.
A quiet fell over the courtroom as U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade‘s monotone voice announced a steady stream of unanimous guilty verdicts for 45 minutes. The jury kept its gaze on the judge as it affirmed the unanimous decisions with a raise of their hands.
Rubashkin sometimes scribbled notes and whispered to his attorneys, but otherwise appeared calm. At times his family whispered and smiled to each other, and Rubashkin once turned to look at his wife and flashed a tired, defeated smile. His supporters filled most of one half of the gallery.
Rubashkin’s wife, Leah, said hearing the stream of guilty verdicts was “not a pleasant thing,” and remains confident of his innocence.
“We’re looking forward to continue this and get the verdict we feel his deserves,” she said.
Rubashkin had been offered a plea deal by federal prosecutors prior to the start of the trial, but told supporters that he would not accept because he was innocent, a close family friend told The Des Moines Register today.
Rabbi Shea Hecht, chairman of the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education, said Rubashkin’s supporters urged him to take the offer, which would have included prison time.
But Rubashkin had moral issues with the proposal and insisted that he had done nothing illegal, Hecht said. Rubashkin’s legal expenses, paid by a Brooklyn-based defense committee, have already exceeded $1 million.
On the steps outside the downtown federal court building in front of TV cameras and flashing bulbs, Rubashkin’s attorney Guy Cook promised to appeal the verdict.
“It was a difficult case. We appreciate the not guilty verdicts that were rendered, we nevertheless disagree with the other verdicts, and an appeal is certain,” he said.
Rubashkin and his lawyers briefly discussed his Kosher and religious needs with the court marshal before being escorted into custody. A federal judge will sentence Rubashkin Nov. 18 in Cedar Rapids.
As Rubashkin was led out of the courtroom, he turned and blew a kiss to his family as his son, Getzel Rubashkin, 25, sang a song of prayer.
Getzel and Rubashkin’s oldest daughter, Roza Weiss, remained hopeful and defiant minutes after the courtroom emptied.
“We’re Jewish and we’re proud of it. That’s my one comment,” Weiss said.
Getzel, meanwhile, said he sought refuge in his faith. “We’re in God’s hands and it will be good,” he said.
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