Iowa Meat Plant Owner: U.S. Seeks Life for First Time, Non-Violent Offense

Update: Mr. Rubashkin will be sentenced Thursday. Prosecutors are asking for a life sentence but we won't know until tomorrow what the judge decides. Sorry for the error.

There is something seriously wrong with a justice system that imposes a life sentence on a 51 year old non-violent offender. That's what may happen Thursday to Sholom Rubashkin, former CEO of Agriprocessors meat packing plant in Iowa.

Mr. Rubashkin was in charge of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, when immigration agents landed in helicopters to detain nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers. In November, Mr. Rubashkin was convicted of 86 counts of federal bank fraud in connection with loans to the company.

Prosecutors, citing Mr. Rubashkin’s “blatant lawlessness, utter lack of remorse, his egregious and repeated attempts to obstruct justice,” have asked Judge Linda R. Reade to impose a life sentence.

I have hardly been a supporter of Agriprocessors. In 2008, I wrote I stopped buying their products due to the treatment of immigrant workers. As TChris explained here: [More...]

Agriprocessors paid its laborers far less than the prevailing wage for the kind of work they did. If Agriprocessors had been given a chance to phase out undocumented workers (which it could likely have done only by paying fair wages to legal workers), it may have been able to avoid bankruptcy. Paying fair wages might have forced it to charge more for its products, but it apparently had limited competition given the reported shortage of kosher meats that resulted from Agriprocessors' distress. Higher consumer prices are a small price to pay for an adequately paid, safe workforce.

Perhaps Agriprocessors deserved to go out of business. It fiercely resisted unionization, choosing to employ undocumented workers (who, of necessity, work for low wages) rather than paying a fair wage that would have attracted legal workers. Its violation of child labor laws and the abusive work environment it provided were more than sufficient reason for consumers to look elsewhere for kosher foods.

Yet it's clear that the State of Iowa dropped the ball in failing to detect and to remedy the labor law violations long ago. Iowa's labor law regulators and Agriprocessors battled regularly over the company's employment practices. Still, if Iowa's regulators had been more aggressive, bq.. Agriprocessors may have cleaned up its act and stayed in business -- helping the economy in a small town that now has to weather the closing of an important local employer. Maybe Agriprocessors' owners were so incorrigible that they just wouldn't comply with the law no matter how much heat the State applied, but it isn't at all clear that state regulators turned the heat up to the temperature needed to make Agriprocessors obey the law. If it's cheaper to pay fines than to comply with regulations, that's what some businesses do.

Now it's probably too late. Not only will legal employees lose their jobs if Agriprocessors does not survive bankruptcy (and it appears from the linked article that it won't), but local businesses that depend on Agriprocessors' employees spending their paychecks locally will also suffer. The loss of a company that brings in $300 million a year will be dearly felt in Postville and surrounding towns.

The lesson to be learned, per TChris:

The lesson to be learned here has less to do with immigration reform than with the need to revitalize labor law. It should not have been so easy for Agriprocessors to resist unionization. It should not have been possible for a major employer to hire child labor. Yet since the Age of Reagan, government has more often seen unions as evil than as a mechanism for assuring justice in the workplace. Labor laws that promote unionization have been weakened, and the enforcement of laws addressing workplace safety and labor standards has been a low priority. A renewed commitment to unionization and to the enforcement of fair labor standards is necessary to prevent more businesses from engaging in the self-destructive greed that toppled Agriprocessors -- greed that will cause suffering in Postville for years to come.

No one is arguing he should get a pass. His lawyers asked for six years. Why did the Government seek life? That's how the U.S. Attorney interpreted the guidelines. Six former U.S. Attorney Generals wrote the court arguing against the life sentence: Janet Reno, William Barr, Richard Thornburgh, Edwin Meese III, Ramsey Clark and Nicholas Katzenbach.

“We cannot fathom how truly sound and sensible sentencing rules could call for a life sentence — or anything close to it — for Mr. Rubashkin, a 51-year-old, first-time, nonviolent offender,”

It's true that "Nearly 300 workers served federal prison sentences of five months for identity theft, and several human resources managers and floor supervisors were convicted of felony charges of harboring illegal immigrants." That is the fault of our unduly harsh immigration laws and the Bush Adminstration. The raids should never have taken place.

A life sentence would far exceed the draconian sentences handed down to WorldCom's Bernie Ebbers and Enron's Jeff Skilling.

Orthodox Jewish leaders have led a campaign in support of Mr. Rubashkin, and more than 16,000 people signed a petition from a Jewish Web site to Judge Reade.

“People believe in him because the mission of Agriprocessors was to provide an important means for Jews to become closer to their connection to God,” defense lawyers wrote in court papers. Many Jews believe the charges against Mr. Rubashkin were “attacks on kosher slaughter,” they wrote.

They aren't even done with Rubashkin. His state trial on labor law violations begins Tuesday. And in the irony of ironies:

Some 10 immigrant workers have received temporary visas as witnesses to testify in those cases.

Federal prosecutors held 35 other immigrants in the United States as material witnesses for Mr. Rubashkin’s immigration trial. When the immigration charges were dismissed, the immigrants were ordered to leave the country by March 31.

Our past coverage of the Postville raids and Agriprocessors is available here.

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    Whatever the correctness according to the law (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by observed on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 09:36:11 PM EST
    Skilling got off terribly easy.
    Our justice system should be extremely harsh on white collar crime like Skilling's.
    He caused far more suffering, to more people, than many violent offenders.

    I Designed Meat Packing Tools (none / 0) (#52)
    by msaroff on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:35:38 PM EST
    So I am familiar with how a meat processor works.

    Putting children on a meat packing line, which is what he did, is only marginally less evil than kidnapping them to serve as soldiers.

    He knowingly employed children to work on a meat packing line.  This warrants the life sentence.


    Yes (none / 0) (#53)
    by squeaky on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 01:50:58 PM EST
    And some would also argue that designing meat packing tools is marginally less evil than killing humans.

    Good thing that there are laws to temper the passion of a lynch mob.


    Until legislatures... (none / 0) (#54)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 02:25:11 PM EST
    become glorified lynch mobs...which kinda feels like where we're at right now...then those laws do more stoking than tempering.

    That was a great post by TChris (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 11:16:52 PM EST
    on this case, and he's got it exactly right about the widespread very negative effects of the government's negligence in handling this properly from the get-go.

    I have no sympathy whatsoever for Mr. Rubashkin, though I take your point-- grudgingly-- that a life sentence is probably too much.  But this guy's life-destroying crimes are exactly the kind of thing I'd like to see treated much more harshly by our judicial system than is usually the case.

    Yep (none / 0) (#10)
    by sj on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:12:21 AM EST
    gotta love TChris.  I think he got it exactly right.

    Your Kidding... (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 09:38:41 AM EST
    When you say non-violent, right ?  Maybe he wasn't wielding an actual whip, but I would argue the damage and pain he cause is equal to if not greater then if he actually had.

    Ditto for the people who ignored safety violations in the coal mines.  These are people who's decisions result in unnecessary physical and mental anguish, and in some instances, injury and death.  To state that these people are non-violent does a great disservice to victims.

    I don't know about life, or what he owes society, but this class of criminal is anything but non-violent.  IMO

    Thank you (none / 0) (#22)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:02:32 PM EST
    I'm tired of Factory Owners and Mining Execs getting away with murder by part, ignoring safety regs and including fines as a cost of doing business, the government needs to step in and do something before the workers are forced to take matters into their own hands.

    Cue broken record... (2.00 / 0) (#16)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 08:56:45 AM EST
    it's not about this slimey businessman, it's about us...a life sentence even being discussed is absurd.

    Another symptom of the disease we're witnessing down in Arizona...authoritarian fever...it's spreading like The Plague, and it is just as harmful as exploitive employers and drug trade violence.

    There's the knee-jerk response. (none / 0) (#19)
    by observed on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:46:01 PM EST
    Much better.

    That is knee-jerk? (none / 0) (#25)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:08:31 PM EST
    What do you call a life sentence in a cage as a response to this crime?

    I think he should suffer harsh penalties (none / 0) (#56)
    by observed on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 03:18:06 PM EST
    but I'd need to look more at the specifics of the case. I DEFINITELY think Skilling could have been locked away for life.
    Sorry for the sniping. I enjoy your comments, mostly

    Oh .. it *is* about ... (none / 0) (#20)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:53:19 PM EST
    the slimey businessman.

    You cannot separate the crime from the punishment. I am totally comfortable with us locking up criminals for life .. even if it is non violent.

    As pointed out before, there are non violent crimes that can destroy lives.


    that's just the thing (none / 0) (#23)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:03:38 PM EST
    its not non-violent, sure the pain is inflicted by proxy but its pain nonetheless.

    That's our difference... (none / 0) (#27)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:12:13 PM EST
    I'd reserve life for mass murderers, repeat offender rapists and molesters...sending a human being to a cage for life is a crime too, society's crime, and should be reserved for the most extreme cases.

    I'm sorry but I don't see how (none / 0) (#28)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:14:38 PM EST
    purposefully avoiding worker safety protections is any different from say driving drunk and plowing into a tour bus. Both resulted from deliberate decisions to break the law, both killed those who had made a concious decision to assume some risk, and both are criminal.

    I'm not saying... (none / 0) (#29)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:23:29 PM EST
    these crimes aren't serious...what I'm trying to say is sentencing flesh and blood to a cage for life is f*ckin' serious too, and it's done in our names.  Maybe y'alls consciences can handle that no problem but my pangs.

    Maybe ya gotta be placed in chains or a cage, or have a loved one go through it, to really get it.  It's barbaric, it's cruel, it's inhumane.  Some give us no choice, and this guy should be punished...but life?  For it to even be in the discussion is insane to me.


    The Arguement is Moot Anyways (none / 0) (#32)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 02:37:54 PM EST
    The guy is what 51 ?  Even if he doesn't get life, he is going to spend the hardest part of his life in a place that isn't going to make his life any longer.

    Say he get 20 years, it's the Fed so he does 20 years, that would put him at 71.  I would be shocked if this guy has taken care of himself, and add in the prison lifestyle and the odds of this guy walking out are near zero.  He will essentially get life either way, unless the judge goes low which doesn't seem likely.

    Kdog, sorry, but guys like this have a lot of dues to pay and unlike traditional violent criminals, I do believe people people like this, executives, would be deterred from some of the more egregious acts if they believed they were going to do real time.

    A cage you say, his many employees might argue the cage they were in was just as, if not more, cruel then Federal prison.  This guy is not a non-violent person, he decisions and choices inflicted plenty of violence of others, just because he doesn't swing the whip doesn't mean he isn't responsible for the suffering.

    One of the few things I disagree with Jeralyn and this site is the notion of non-violent criminals not deserving harsh treatment.  If I make $100k, and some clown steels $50k from me, that is 1000 man hours I will be forced to work in order to become whole.  Given the choice, I will take a beating and my wallet over working another 1000 hours any day, any week.  Who deserves more time, when I choose the beating over the pillaging ?

    The pillagers, like Skilling, take from people what can not be replaced, financial security, and how many of those he so carelessly fleeced will end up living shorter lives because maybe they can't afford the care they need later in life or the medication, or just retiring at 65 instead of 70 ?  That may not have the violent scariness of a thug, but they take, and make no mistake about it, those millions/billions are not some abstract 1's and 0's on a computer, they are people's future's, their quality of life, which is probably the most determining factor in life expectancy.

    And as I mentioned above, I truly believe that the educated pillager would be far less likely to commit the more egregious acts if they thought they would get real time, not this white collar, ridiculous legal team, keep all the ill gotten gains, puffery we are so fond of.

    While I don't condone it, at times I think the Chinese have it right when it comes to greed, short trial, swift justice, and most importantly, the relinquishment of all their ill gotten gains and anything else just because pillagers deserve the life of their worst victims, to die dirt poor.

    I figured it out once, and this is just off the top of my head, but for every minute Ebbers serves in prison represented about $25,000 he stole.  While the punk down the street in in a real prison for a dollar or two a day, where is the justice in that ?  Sorry, but in my book these guys should be locked up good and long and all of their wealth should be stripped from them and their families.  It might change a mind or two when the thought of granny and the kids living on food stamps is a real possibility.  Just like I am positive that is a reality for some of their victims.

    And before you bring it up, I doubt there are any pillagers wrongly accused, didn't have suitable council, or get a fair trial.

    Damn I didn't mean to rant so long, but I truly am tired of the country treating these guys with kids gloves.


    I know where you're coming from... (none / 0) (#33)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:06:34 PM EST
    Scott...greed is the most infuriating of sins.  Guys like this have no reason to lie, cheat, steal, and cause harm...yet they do.  They deserve far worse than we can ever do to them.

    I just can't get on board with the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" knee-jerk response to crime we have embraced as a society.  There is sin in that too, and our collective souls are dirty enough my man.  We gotta evolve past it at some time.  The answer isn't to treat white collar crooks more harshly, imo...the answer is to stop treating common crooks so harshly.  Strive for the best of humanity...forgiveness, redemption, compassion, humanity.

    I much prefer restitution, returning of ill gotten gains to their rightful owners...something evolutionary and revolutionary in our response to crime.  We've come a long way since the dark ages, except when it comes to crime and punishment.  My conscience can't handle it, I'd rather get burned striving for the best instead of "safely" sinking to the lowest common denominator...if you catch my drift.


    you are a criminal lover. (none / 0) (#36)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:24:23 PM EST
    You are actually advocating to treat violent criminals more leniently?

    You don't consider cause and effect at all. Once this guy INITIATED his crime, he forfeit his right to be treated like everyone else in society and that includes being caged.

    The difference is that caging is a RESPONSE to his crime. You cannot equate forceful response to sins.

    Sure, if he is caged for NO CAUSE and society initiate his caging, then it is a sin of society. Once, he initiated his crime, the same act (caging him) is no longer a sin.


    Well the law does say... (none / 0) (#37)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:39:03 PM EST
    I'm a criminal, and I do try to love myself, so others will too:)

    Love and forgiveness...we need more of it, not less.  


    Sigh ... (none / 0) (#39)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:47:21 PM EST
    actually i think my name calling goes a bit too far. I apologize for that.

    But my original point stands.

    I hope your "crime" is not one with intention to hurt and has victims. I wouldn't care if it is one of those victimless crime.

    But if not, I am sorry but I have to despise you.


    My crimes... (none / 0) (#41)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:53:37 PM EST
    are too numerous to list, but I assure you, you'd be hard pressed to find a victim.  My victims are the result of legal behavior...like buying sh*t made in China.

    Now you've got me thinking about all the victims of those who have technically committed no crime...its a terrible way to judge morality or decency.


    I think you are much better off .. (none / 0) (#43)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:00:58 PM EST
    if you apply the 80-20 rule.

    Sure, there are behavior, which technically is not a crime, that create victims.

    There are also behavior, which technically is defined as a crime, but there is no victim.

    However, there are a LOT of behavior, defined very clearly by law, that are way above the line of ambiguity and is definitely very bad for society. Murder .. rape ... robbery with a deadly weapon ... in general ... violent crime ..

    There is little ambiguity to these crimes, and the undesirability of them, and there is no reason why society should not "lock the offenders up and throw away the key" or even execute them.

    For the ones with some ambiguity, we should be cautious.


    I Get Your Point (none / 0) (#42)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:59:28 PM EST
    But first, to call it knee-jerk is silly, this isn't something people just decide when criminal X is caught.  This is stuff humans have thought about for as long as we have been humans.  It's not knee-jerk, maybe eye-for-an-eye type mentality, but not knee-jerk, at least not for me.

    In theory I agree with you, Canada is a perfect example, they are very forgiving and focus on rehabilitation.  But in reality, Americans are savages, and one can argue it's because of the treatment of criminals, but I would argue it's in our blood literally.

    I am from Wisconsin, which is a skip from Canada, and a lot less vengeful, and the crime far less violent then my current home of Texas.  My observations have lead me to believe that because this state was settle by a bunch of criminals who essentially stole Texas from Mexico, that the people who settled here and did well were the unscrupulous and in most cases violent.

    My larger point is that people who didn't like rules, who wanted to be instantly rich, and who wanted something for nothing, land, settled this country. Not entirely, but disproportionally more then other settled lands.

    Whatever, this is a subject for a book, not a post, but I agree on a academic level, but in reality, I am losing my compassion for people who spend their entire lives causing others misery.  AT some point people forfeit their right to be part of society when they decide to commit these heinous crimes, including grand pilfering.


    Sending a human being ... (none / 0) (#30)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:34:15 PM EST
    to a cage for life is NOT a crime, by DEFINITION, if it is done accordance to the law.

    In fact, even KILLING a man is not a crime if it is done accordance to the law (in combat, executed for a serious crime).

    Now if you want to argue that it is a crime in YOUR MIND .. then it is your OPINION. There is nothing inherent to say that your OPINION is more valid than mine, or anyone else.

    And what is "extreme" is also defined by law .. which in this case, obviously whatever the accused is charged with, is "extreme" enough.


    It's a natural crime... (none / 0) (#31)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:50:46 PM EST
    to cage a human being...the kind of crime where there is no need to refer to a law book or legislator, like murder or rape...something inside ya just knows it's wrong.

    How About Cubatizing Them ? (none / 0) (#34)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:20:17 PM EST
    I would argue, using you line of thought that cubicles are inhuman or digging for coal 3 miles under the surface.  And I sure as hell know I would rather be in a cage all day then a steel mill.

    Humans aren't meant for a lot of things, does that mean they are natural crimes, that would make work a natural crime, if we made monkeys do half the non-sense humans do for work, the world would scream bloody murder.  Yet it fully acceptable to lock up animals in cages for free when they have done nothing wrong.

    I'm just playing, but I think the point of locking people up is in part for punishment, they aren't suppose to like it.  All punishment, by your definition, is a natural crime, which is the point, right ?


    Well... (none / 0) (#38)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:45:34 PM EST
    they might not have all the choice in the world due to circumstances, but a miner has the freedom to refuse to work that mine.

    Granted Scott...I'm a little weird I guess, instutionalized authoritarian cruelty bothers my conscience a lot more than an individuals cruelty.  Your conscience says different...fair enough.  All I ask is for society to always keep in mind that caging and chaining human beings is a violent act, a barbaric act...and not to be taken lightly.  I'm used to being well outta the mainstream on this issue...maybe I'd feel better about crime and punishment if we didn't have so many in prison over total bullsh*t like selling dope...but as it is the whole system makes me fairly sick and I want no part of it.


    Once again, i think you are confused. (none / 0) (#40)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:51:47 PM EST
    Jailing people for possession of dope may be unreasonable (and i fully support legalization of drugs) but that does not make jailing itself unreasonable.

    And you are wrong. We do NOT have institutionalized authoritarian cruelty here in the US. We only have institutionalized "cruelty" (i will use your definition) here.

    Any "cruelty" we meter out is determined by trial by jury .. hardly authoritarian.

    And a little cruelty may actually be GOOD for society if applied adequately. I don't understand this total aversion to anything harsh. Life, liberty, freedom are not absolute rights. They are NOT guaranteed absolutely in our constitution. Due process can take those away.


    Nyrias c'mon pal... (none / 0) (#45)
    by kdog on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:09:10 PM EST
    I've never said jailing is unreasonable...the extent to which we jail is unreasonable.  Our sentences are too often unreasonable.  

    It's supposed to be the Dept. of Corrections, not the Dept. of Punishment or the Dept. of Righteous Cruelty or whatever you want it to be man.  It's bad enough we gotta share the planet with the select few people prisons are the only place...isn't the minimization of cruelty the goal here?

    Now I'm down to hold people responsible for their actions and locking up the hopelessly violent...but a guy like this should just be stripped of all his ill-gotten money, give it to the wronged, a sh*tload of community service and call it a day.  And the same for any non-violent thief.  What's wrong with that?  If the cash is gone dock their pay like you would child support.


    So what is a "violent" crime? (none / 0) (#46)
    by nycstray on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 09:50:50 PM EST
    Since this is an agri related crime, I'll use it (agri) for a question . . . .

    what about knowingly not disclosing toxic ingredients (contamination etc)? would you consider the related deaths/illness to make it a "violent" crime or not? please think about the symptoms relating to the deaths/illness before you answer . . . and that these decisions are made at the top of the food chain . . . and greed is/was most likely the motivator . . . is just taking the dude's cash enough for ya? How many need to die before a "cage" is "okay" for you?



    stray! (none / 0) (#47)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 08:00:52 AM EST
    How's Cali treatin' ya?

    Since you're making somebody sick, yeah I'd call that violent, but I don't know about "hopelessy violent", as in requiring the equally violent reaction of a lifetime caging.


    All's good here :) (none / 0) (#49)
    by nycstray on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 10:55:42 AM EST
    Would you consider it hopelessly violent when the only way it stops is if they are caught? These aren't one time turn your head incidents. They are gambling with our lives and the tragic consequences are not unknown to them when they do it . . .  

    Closer... (none / 0) (#50)
    by kdog on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 11:02:28 AM EST
    A repeat offense after being caught even closer...but still, life in a cage is a pretty f*ckin' violent response...and what concerns me most is the violence I help fund and am a part of as a (reluctant) member of this society.

    What is wrong with your picture ... (none / 0) (#51)
    by nyrias on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 11:45:17 AM EST
    is that it violates the community sense of necessary punishment.

    Punishment by definition has to be cruel. It is just a matter of degree. Taking away his money is denying him the freedom to consume, certainly not as severe as locking him up, but no different in nature.

    We should not shy from being a little cruel to criminals.

    To some extent, there is no absolute yardstick of what is appropriate. There are only opinions and precedents.

    And YOUR opinion, my friend, is WAY over to the side of being too lenient compared to the average opinions of Americans.


    I Struggle With this as Well. (none / 0) (#44)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:14:08 PM EST
    If our criminal system was perfect in that no innocent person is punished I have always said that I would get behind the death penalty.  

    But the question for me was always, who does it, who invents they mechanism, the ritual, and the process ?  These are people who's job would be to figure out how to murder another and that never sat well with me.

    Violence in my opinion is like a seed, give it what it needs and it will propagate and flourish, choke it off an it won't.  So in theory the death penalty would be reasonable, but it effects society as a whole so negatively, by propagating more violence that it's not healthy for society to use that sort of punishment.  

    The same can probably be said for almost all types of punishment and so here were are 10,000 years later still mulling over what to do with criminals.  It blows.


    there is no such thing ... (none / 0) (#35)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:20:55 PM EST
    it is YOUR OPINION that it is a crime.

    War is mass murders, you know. Are you saying all wars are wrong, even those initiating for defending one's country?

    The fact that we need LAWS shows that there is no such thing as natural crimes. Otherwise, everyone would agree and society would not have to debate and write them down.


    Amazing (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 09:59:45 PM EST
    Guess that undocumented workers are the political fodder of the day... a nice hanging of an employer will make them look good...

    This is nuts.

    Diogenes theorem (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 10:17:57 PM EST
    "..."blatant lawlessness, utter lack of remorse, his egregious and repeated attempts to obstruct justice..."
    Isn't this just the sort of person who is highly likely to be a reoffend after release from prison?
    And I somehow doubt that he is getting life for "one crime" after a spotless life; more than likely he's avoided getting caught for multiple other crimes.
    One use of prison terms is deterrence (to others).  Another is containment of someone likely to reoffend.  

    Iowans look away and sanction (none / 0) (#4)
    by Cream City on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 10:24:40 PM EST
    so much agribusiness abuse of immigrants that the roster of cases is simply appalling.

    I never can forget the Decoster case won by the EEOC on behalf of immigrant (and migrant) women subjected to rape and other sexual violence and harassment to keep their jobs and the jobs of their spouses.  Ever since, if I can figure out the source (from packaging, from research online, etc.), I don't buy eggs from Iowa, or just about any other agricultural product from there.  

    I heard about just some horror stories from one of the lawyers, stories that didn't even get into briefs and evidence -- and also heard evidence that indicated that a lot of people there knew about it, but resisted doing a darn thing about it.  It's the most agricultural state, so it needs big agribusiness, which gets its way.

    Whoa, Nellie! (none / 0) (#6)
    by Peter G on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 11:33:09 PM EST
    The linked NYT story does NOT say that the judge imposed a life sentence.  It says that prosecutors have asked for a life sentence, and that Rubashkin is to be sentenced tomorrow, Thursday.  

    Wel (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Wed Apr 28, 2010 at 11:41:55 PM EST
    Jeralyn is a day ahead of the rest of us... see thursday open thread..

    How dare you. (none / 0) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:03:54 AM EST
    Just sayin' (none / 0) (#9)
    by Peter G on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:10:05 AM EST
    "Yes 2 Truth"!

    Ha! (none / 0) (#11)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:20:17 AM EST
    Thanks, Peter! (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:57:21 AM EST
    What a strange article. It never says it's a two day sentencing hearing, only that arguments were heard Weds. I read:

    A federal court in Cedar Rapids heard arguments on Wednesday over the sentencing of Sholom Rubashkin, the former chief executive.

    The proposed sentence startled legal experts around the country.

    and (wrongly) assumed the sentence had been imposed.
    Here's another article.


    The other side of the coin (none / 0) (#14)
    by nyjets on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:14:24 AM EST
    "There is something seriously wrong with a justice system that imposes a life sentence on a 51 year old non-violent offender"

    A non-violent offender can be just as bad as a violent offender. They can be just as destructive and damaging. When you consider the number of people Mr. Rubashkin hurt, a life sentence is not wrong.

    There is something ... (none / 0) (#21)
    by nyrias on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 12:55:05 PM EST
    wrong with people fail to understand that being 51 and non-violent is an excuse to avoid a life sentence no matter what crime is committed.

    Bernie Madoff? (none / 0) (#58)
    by diogenes on Sat May 01, 2010 at 11:49:11 AM EST
    So you'd parole Madoff, who effectively has a life sentence now?

    Since when are the injured parties not (none / 0) (#15)
    by observed on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 08:10:01 AM EST
    allowed to express their opinions?
    Certainly the magnitude of the suffering Skilling caused should be a factor in his sentence.
    I just don't get the reasoning behind wanting more leniency for white collar offenders. If anything, the death penalty should be reserved for the most egregious white collar criminals.
    I don't mean Skilling, but for example, a food processor whose flagrant, repeated negligence and/or fraud over food safety and ingredients causes deaths from poisoning and/or illness.
    One reason is deterrence: I'm not sure how much deterrent effect harsh sentencing has on those people who commit violent crimes in a fit of passion, but I am sure that it is very relevant to white collar crime.

    That said, whatever the law is currently, I don't want to see it bent to impose a sentence which is out of line with existing guidelines, just because the guy is a scumbag.

    That's logical (none / 0) (#24)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:08:19 PM EST
    I mean purposefully cutting quality control, testing, and or worker safety protections seems at least as premeditated action as bringing a gun to a robbery, and the end result is at least as predictable- why shouldn't the punishements be similar. But then again I always thought it was strange that if you steal a 10 $100s from a check-cashing place you can get 10 years in real prison, but if you steal $10 million from a pension fund you get 2 to 3 in a country club.  

    Anyway (none / 0) (#18)
    by DancingOpossum on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 11:30:26 AM EST
    ...for those white collar criminals, hit them where it really hurts them. Take their money, all of it, including any illegally gained money they bequeathed to their heirs and progeny. Take the cars, the houses, the bank accounts, the possessions conveniently transferred to a wife's or business's name. Take it all. That hurts them more than prison time.

    And it has to be a LOT of money. A recent investigation in Bloomberg News found that pharmaceutical companies consider the multimillion-dollar lawsuits they have to pay for making dangerous drugs are just a drop in the bucket of their profits, just a small cost of doing business. Five million here, five million there--doesn't faze them at all. So hit them where it hurts.

    money doesn't hurt (none / 0) (#26)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 01:11:56 PM EST
    remove the shield of incorporation and starting handing down criminal penalties- kill 50 people with a bad drug, well that's 50 cases of manslaughter- and as we all know the buck stops at the top, so unless there's clear evidence that a CEO was mislead the guy should be criminally liable-- its the one instance where the Chinese have a point- if you profit from faulty products and do so knowingly you should be criminally responsible for the effects of said products.

    Could the FDA inspectors (none / 0) (#48)
    by Wile ECoyote on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 08:26:58 AM EST
    be also held to the same standards as the people they are inspecting?  If bad drugs get through on their watch, how about charging them with manslaughter also?  

    Right (none / 0) (#55)
    by jondee on Fri Apr 30, 2010 at 02:28:48 PM EST
    and then punish those who've been falling all over themselves pushing the magic bullet of deregulation and the intentional gutting of agencies like the FDA.

    If the inspectors (none / 0) (#57)
    by Wile ECoyote on Sat May 01, 2010 at 06:51:08 AM EST
    aren't competent, why have them?