Donald Trump

Trump Commutes His First Prison Sentence

Kosher meatpacking magnate Sholom Rubashkin's prosecution and sentence had long generated cross-partisan outrage.


President Donald Trump announced his first sentence commutation yesterday. The beneficiary is Sholom Rubashkin, who was eight years into serving a 27-year sentence and $27 million in fines for financial crimes related to his work running what had been America's biggest kosher meat-processing concern, Agriprocessors.


As the official White House announcement notes, justice for Rubashkin, now 57 years old, had been a cause for "bipartisan leaders from across the political spectrum, from Nancy Pelosi to Orrin Hatch." Rubashkin's supporters also included more than 100 highly placed members of the legal community, from the Department of Justice to judges and scholars. This action is not a pardon: As the White House notes, it "does not vacate Mr. Rubashkin's conviction, and it leaves in place a term of supervised release and a substantial restitution obligation."

Rubashkin's sentence was widely believed to be absurdly excessive in relation to the crimes for which he was sentenced, and in relation to other crimes that are almost never so severely punished. As his lawyers noted,

Essentially, Mr. Rubashkin was convicted of fraud offenses stemming from inflating collateral to obtain a higher line of credit for Agriprocessors, his father's kosher meat business, and for paying some cattle owners 11 days late…Mr. Rubashkin is a devoted husband and father, a deeply religious man who simply doesn't deserve a sentence of this length, or anything remotely close to it…Indeed, his sentence is far longer than the median sentences for murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse, child pornography and numerous other offenses exponentially more serious than his.

As I blogged back in 2010, there was a lot to condemn about how the justice system treated Rubashkin. Interestingly, given Trump's anti-illegal-immigrant stances, Rubashkin's legal troubles began with an immigration raid on his meat-processing plant back in 2008.

The original raid, which arrested 389 workers, was conducted with a Blackhawk helicopter and submachine-gun-bearing armies of cops, even though Rubashkin was well aware they were coming to investigate his business. But what he was eventually imprisoned for had nothing to do with immigration violations; they resulted from financial-law fishing expeditions and some little-enforced technicalities, including a 1920s law requiring certain suppliers of cattle to be paid within a day.

Rubashkin had gone all the way to the Supreme Court, failing every step of the way, in search of a new trial or sentence.

The American Spectator convincingly lays out the government's malicious mishandling of the case once Rubashkin was in its clutches, including that the federal judge who sent him away, Linda Reade, "met with prosecutors secretly for months before the raid" and "met with federal agents to discuss 'charging strategies, numbers of anticipated arrests and prosecutions, logistics, the movement of detainees, and other issues.'…Documents indicate that the judge required a written briefing of the raid which was planned 'in coordination' with her. She actually had 'a weekly operations/planning meeting' with federal agents and the U.S. attorney. This collusion is an extraordinary conflict of interest."

The Spectator goes on to report that Rubashkin was acquitted on various state charges that were not tried by Reade. He even had the entire state case against him expunged from the record. The immigration charges were eventually dropped, leaving just the financial crimes.

Last year in The Wall Street Journal, a former deputy attorney general, Charles Renfrew, and a former U.S. attorney from Iowa, James Reynolds, wrote that Rubushkin's entire prosecution was a miscarriage of justice. The government's own actions, they argued, prevented Agriprocessors from being sold at sufficient value to repay the bank he was accused of defrauding, thus maximizing the alleged damage to the bank for which Rubushkin could be punished.

The government's war on his company harmed not only Rubashkin, but caused long-lasting damage to the economy of Agriprocessors' home town of Postville, Iowa. Trump should be commended for his commutation, and should remember the evils that can result from overzealous enforcement of immigration laws against people working peacefully to keep America's economy humming.

NEXT: #MeToo + Trump-centric Partisanship = Smear Job

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  1. well of course you’d be defending wealthy fatcats.
    But that black guy – he was scary – I had to shoot him because he was a scary black man.
    And you people buy that crap wholesale, and have no problem letting murderous cops go free. .

    It’s never the wealthy white people who are sentanced to 25 years to life for rape – oh no. Richboy swimers get probation for raping girls behind dumpsters. Richboy murderers go free. Crazy killers like George Zimmerman go free. And you people don’t care.

    But when some rich guy is actually convicted of actual crimes, you folks whine and cry like it’s unjust or something.
    Rules? Rules are for the ‘little people’, like taxes. Right Leona?

    1. New here???

    2. I like it how a Hispanic guy like Zimmerman becomes white as soon as he does something that could be spun into a racist tale. If Zimmerman were shot by a white guy the story would have read ‘Mexican immigrant just looking for a job gunned down by maniac white supremacist”.

      Not that I think Zimmerman is a great example of anything other than an idiot being an idiot, but his ability to simultaneously be a protected minority and an evil majority member at the same time is truly a modern miracle.

      1. I think that case was more about the race of the victim, but passable effort.

        1. That’s what he said.

        2. Zimmerman was the victim. His acquittal seems to support that.

          1. How does it feel to be dead inside?

            1. The problem is that they jury wasn’t allowed to hear evidence of Zimmerman’s future misbehavior. If only the judge had allowed them to know about *that,* he’d have been convicted.


              1. So you agree that the guy who shot the child for no good reason is the true victim here? Or has partisan cock-teasing from FOX News or whatever scrambled your brain to the extent that you can no longer form coherent thoughts?

                1. Nah. We agree that the guy who should have minded his own business but didn’t, ended up shooting the 17 year old – who is no longer a child by anyone’s definition – because the kid couldn’t just tell the dude to fuck off and walk away but had to escalate the situation.

                  Two morons enter, one moron leaves.

    3. I honestly just believe all poors should be killed.

      1. Who’s gonna polish your monocle?

        1. Orphans don’t even count as poors.

    4. “well of course you’d be defending wealthy fatcats.
      But that black guy – he was scary – I had to shoot him because he was a scary black man.
      And you people buy that crap wholesale, and have no problem letting murderous cops go free.”

      Yeah, they really are defenders for the powerful /sarc:…..maye/print…..-are-scary

      I really hate partisan hacks.

    5. I have a great big problem with letting murderous cops go free. A number of my friends who are cop-suckers have drifted away because of my viewpoint.

      1. Pretty sure they drifted away because you seem to be an insufferable asshole.

    6. Netizen, huh? Say, how do you feel about net neutrality?

  2. Lots of people in prison are deeply religious, just sayin.

    1. Because they were totally religious way before they got to prison, it’s not that being in prison forced them to confront their previous life or anything.

      1. Dude, I’ve seen Oz. Some people have a religious awakening while in jail.

      2. Uh, you’d be surprised how many people will say they’re deeply religious no matter what the evidence of their lives shows.

        Its just something people think you’re supposed to say.

        And such, when someone says it – or says it about someone – it means precisely dick. Even less when your own advocates are spouting it at your sentencing and during pardon attempts.

        1. *David Koresh likes this *

        2. The fundamental doctrine of Christianity is Original Sin – that is, the claim that God made people so it’s _impossible_ for them to follow his rules. When someone is deeply religious but has thoroughly effed up his or her life by breaking those rules, that’s just confirmation of Original Sin, right?

    2. especially the ones who happen to run bakeries

  3. You just know Trump picked this guy to try and make us believe he’s not an anti-Semite but we’re not fooled a bit! Next up he’ll probably be commuting the sentence of a Mexican or something.

    But Jesus, the judge was in on the planning of the prosecution? What the fuck? Why hasn’t the judge been sentenced to life plus cancer for some shit like that?

  4. The only reason Trump released the guy was so he could return to Israel and turn it into a ‘democratic’ theocracy to nuke Iran to make Flynn happy and keep him from testifying. It’s all just so cynical.

    Jill Stein approves this message much to her chagrin.

    1. Judaism is NOT a theocratic religion. There is no clergy and laity. Any Jew can approach G-d. And kudos to the President for pardoning this guy. As the zzzzionissts say, KOL HAKAVOD.

      “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here.”

      The Troll Song

      1. Weirdo

        1. What’s Judaism got to do with it? I presume he’d still have gotten clemency, other things being equal, if he were a Methodist pig farmer.

          1. Maybe the weirdness it Reason mentioning it? I really don’t know. If his punishment was excessive then him being religious doesn’t make him more sympathetic to me either way.

          2. I didn’t even know there were Methodist pigs, let alone people farming them.

  5. “This action is not a pardon”

    So…it’s a reprieve? Those are the two clemency actions which the Constitution empowers the President to take:

    “The President…shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” U. S. Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 2

    1. It’s clemency that ends his jail sentence but doesn’t clear his slate. He’s still a (now ex-)felon, but doesn’t have to wait another twenty years to be released or go through a parole procedure. By comparison, a pardon would clear the official record of the convinction and incarceration. In effect, Trump’s signaling that he believes Rubashkin was guilty of the crime but was too harshly punished for it.

  6. Trump’s DOJ will go after the workers and leave the businessmen to do their dirty deeds.

    1. So your analysis indicates that the eight years this defendant has served in prison…is insufficient? That justice requires a possible extra 19 years?

      Either you’ve carefully studied the crime or…you are expressing reflexive TDS.

  7. . . . a deeply religious man . . .

    This is some bullshit right here.

    If the dude’s ‘adeeply religious man’ then why’d he do it? Sin, you know. Why’s he out committing massive sins?

    If the dude can be ‘a deeply religious man’ and still do this – then why the fuck use religion to mitigate his crimes? Because firm belief means absolutely fuck-all when it comes to behavior.

    Its not like this guy got caught diddling the church secretary in an airport restroom stall. This isn’t some uncontrollable biological urge leaving him fighting against the 4 billion years of programming he’s had – this is just . . . greed. He just wanted more money.

    Even if you believe his sentence was excessively harsh, this fuckhead is not deserving of this level of clemency and certainly shouldn’t have been the dude Trump pop’s his seal with.

    However – at least he’s done it once. It gets easier each time.

    1. The “deeply religious man” quote is from the guy’s lawyers, maybe Reason is giving the lawyers too much credence, but what would one expect the lawyers to say after presumably getting lots of character witnesses?

      Tony’s remark about religion was about people being religious *in prison* – and indeed there are people whose religion deepens in prison once they have time to face their past life and resolve to make a change.

      That’s not the same as saying a murderer should be let out just because he’s really sorry now, just that if you’re talking in terms of recidivism, the sincerely reformed religious guy is less of a risk than the guy who thinks society is out to get him.

  8. I hope the judge, prosecutors and immigration officials involved in the original case are still working in good stead.

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