On 26 December 2016, writing on behalf of 107 former Justice officials, in a Washington Post article, former deputy attorney general Philip B. Heymann made the case for releasing Sholom Rubashkin. I’d like to add my support for their request.
I first learned of Sholom Rubashkin many years ago after seeing some disturbing video footage recorded covertly by PETA members who infiltrated his business. As a vegetarian concerned about animal welfare, the videos were troubling to me. Over time, I heard other stories about the business that were equally upsetting. Later, through a series of coincidences, I had an opportunity to visit the Rubashkin meat packing plant as part of a small group. I was understandably reluctant to visit the plant, but I went because I wanted to witness first-hand what by then was rumored to be a long list of violations, abuses, and poor business practices.
As shocking as it was to see a meat packing plant for the first time, what was really most disturbing and upsetting to me was the discrepancy between the stories I’d heard about Rubashkin and what I was seeing first hand. What I saw was a clean well-run facility. I saw no evidence or indication of anything negative I’d heard about Rubashkin and his business.
I saw the same killing floor depicted in the PETA videos, from the same angle where the hidden camera had been. Yes, cows were being killed, which is horrific, but the process seemed to me to be similar to or better than what happens in other meat packing plants. They were all instantly killed. From what I witnessed, it seemed to me that the PETA video, gathered over many weeks, selectively showed the worst incidents possible, and was not representative of what happens 24-hour-a-day at the plant. There is a process in place. The process hadn’t changed. It was the same process as used in the video. Any process has a failure rate, but the one in place, used around the world, developed over hundreds of years, was fairly refined.
Being from Iowa, I’d heard stories of meat packing plants in our area that bring in illegal immigrants. It apparently was a common occurrence industry-wide. Occasionally spot checks would result in some deportations, but there didn’t seem to be a concerted effort to raid plants or shut plants down. This is why when the ‘Postville Raid’ took place in May of 2008, I was shocked by what seemed like a disproportionate response and targeted attack on the Rubashkin business and the wider Postville community.
When Rubashkin was finally put on trial, I felt compelled to testify on his defense in Federal Court. Prior to his trial, he was being accused of about 100,000 criminal acts and violations. As with the rumors and accusations I’d previously heard about him, it seemed that the charges against him were inflated as well. Eventually, almost all 100,000 charges were dropped as the court found Rubashkin not guilty on almost all charges.
Justice fairness and justice reform are at the forefront of our public discourse. Citizens are tired of having their tax dollars go toward housing non-violent offenders in our already overcrowded prison system. As a result, hundreds of non-violent offenders have had their sentences cut short. For these reasons, Sholom Rubashkin should be considered for a presidential pardon. He’s served his time and should return to being a husband, father, and a productive member of society. This would be better for everyone involved.
Please read the article by former deputy attorney general Philip B. Heymann for the complete background to Rubashkin’s case.