A federal appeals court has denied a former Postville meatpacking executive’s request for a new trial, saying he failed to show the judge in the case was unfairly biased in favor of the prosecution.
Sholom Rubashkin was convicted in 2009 of 86 fraud charges, which led to a 27-year prison sentence. Rubashkin ran the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant, site of a huge immigration raid in 2008 that contributed to the business’ collapse.
Rubashkin’s case and long sentence drew national attention, including from six former U.S. attorneys general who voiced concern about his treatment.
His lawyers said U.S. District Judge Linda Reade should have stepped aside from his trial because she cooperated closely with prosecutors before the immigration raid, showing bias against the plant’s owners.
The appeals court in St. Louis ruled this morning that Rubashkin failed to show Reade was required to recuse herself from the fraud trial.
“Our approach is consistent with that of the Supreme Court, which has held that recusal is not necessarily required even after a district court has expressed ‘impatience, dissatisfaction, annoyance, and even anger’ toward a party. There is nothing like that in this record,” the appeals court wrote.
Rubashkin’s convictions stemmed from allegations that he created false invoices and moved money around to trick the company’s main bank into lending Agriprocessors millions of extra dollars, which were lost when the company folded.
Rubashkin’s lawyers argued Reade unfairly allowed prosecutors in the fraud trial to talk about separate allegations that the executive participated in schemes to hire illegal immigrants to work in the plant.
The appeals court ruled the court was correct to allow immigration evidence into the fraud trial, because Rubashkin had signed bank documents promising that his company was not involved in illegal activity.
The immigration allegations were to be the subject of a separate trial, but prosecutors dropped Rubashkin’s immigration charges after he was convicted of bank fraud.
8th Circuit’s Opinion September 16, 2011 (PDF)