More former Department of Justice officials are voicing concern over the potential life sentence facing Sholom Rubashkin, the kosher slaughterhouse manager in Iowa whose sentencing on federal bank fraud and money laundering charges is set for this week.
On April 21, former attorneys general Nicholas Katzenbach and Edwin Meese III submitted a letter to Chief Judge Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa that expressed concern about the guideline sentence proposed in the Rubashkin case. Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, who is now general counsel at PepsiCo Inc., and eight former U.S. attorneys also signed the letter. Click here for a copy.
Nathan Lewin, a lawyer for Rubashkin, said today that several more former DOJ officials—including former attorneys general William Barr, Janet Reno and Richard Thornburgh—have signed the letter submitted to Reade. Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and former Solicitor General Seth Waxman are also signatories, said Lewin of Washington's Lewin & Lewin. Gorelick and Waxman are partners in the Washington office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Thornburgh is of counsel in the Washington office of K&L Gates, and Barr serves on the Time Warner board of directors.
Rubashkin was convicted in November on 86 financial crime and related counts for his role in a scheme to defraud a bank that provided a $35 million line of credit to the Rubashkin family-owned Agriprocessors Inc., a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa. At trial, Rubashkin, 51, admitted making mistakes regarding the loan; he denied any criminal wrongdoing. He has been jailed pending sentencing.
The lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr., who called Rubashkin's fraud "extraordinary," noted in the government’s sentencing memo that Rubashkin faces a potential life sentence. Rubashkin’s lawyers argue that the guideline should not be followed. The attorneys say a six-year prison term, at most, is just punishment. A two-day sentencing hearing is set to begin April 28 in Reade’s courtroom.
The court has received more than a thousand letters and e-mails that support leniency for Rubashkin. The former DOJ officials said in their letter that they have read the government and defense sentencing memos but have not made an “independent effort to investigate the accuracy of the factual statements” in the court papers.
“The potential absurdity of the sentencing guidelines are on full display in this case because, at least according to the government’s proposed calculations, the advisory sentencing guidelines here recommend a life sentence for Mr. Rubashkin,” the former DOJ officials said in the letter. The letter writers said they “cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence—or anything close to it—for Mr. Rubashkin,” a first-time non-violent offender.
The former DOJ officials said the government’s sentencing position is “especially disconcerting” since district and appellate courts have repeatedly imposed and approved below-guideline sentences in high-dollar-loss white collar cases. “[W]e respectfully urge the Court to note and consider the peculiarity and potentially severe injustice of the applicable sentencing guidelines and of the Government’s extreme sentencing position in this case,” the letter said.