A former manager of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse that was the site of a massive immigration raid was convicted Thursday on 86 financial fraud charges that could bring a prison sentence of hundreds of years.
Sholom Rubashkin still faces a second federal trial on 72 immigration charges.
Jurors returned the verdict against Rubashkin, 50, on their second day of deliberations after a nearly monthlong trial. Rubashkin had faced 91 charges, including bank, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. He was found not guilty on five of 19 charges alleging he did not make timely payments to livestock dealers. A sentencing date was not immediately set.
"We respect the jury's hard work. It was a difficult case. We disagree with the verdict," defense attorney Guy Cook said after the decision. "There were many legal errors made by the prosecution in the trial of this case and following sentencing we will appeal."
Prosecutors offered no immediate comment and referred all questions to U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Bob Teig, who did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday evening.
Prosecutors alleged that as a manager of the former Agriprocessors, Inc., plant in Postville, Iowa, Rubashkin intentionally deceived the company's lender. Former Agriprocessors employees testified that Rubashkin personally directed them to create fake invoices in order to show St. Louis-based First Bank that the plant had more money flowing in than it really did.
Cook argued Rubashkin never read the loan agreement with First Bank and tried to portray him as a bumbling businessman in over his head.
Rubashkin was detained after the jury was dismissed, despite a request from his defense team that he be allowed to remain free on bail. A hearing was set for Wednesday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to determine whether Rubashkin will be freed before his second trial, which is scheduled to begin Dec. 2.
The first trial was held in Sioux Falls after Rubashkin's attorneys requested a change of venue due to pretrial publicity.
Rubashkin turned around in court several times while Reade read the verdict and smiled at his wife, Leah, at one point passing her a note.
"We look forward to continuing this and getting the verdict he deserves," Leah Rubashkin said after the decision. "Obviously it's not a pleasant thing ... unfortunately not everything was allowed to be heard by the jury."
After the verdict was announced, Cook renewed a previous motion for a "directed verdict," essentially asking for a dismissal of the charges, and specified the money laundering charges because the jury determined Rubashkin did not personally profit. Reade took the motion under consideration.
During closing arguments, U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said Rubashkin was aware of the fraud at the plant and to assume otherwise was "ridiculous." Cook said Rubashkin may have practiced business unethically, but never committed a crime.
Over the protests of Rubashkin's defense team, Reade also allowed former employees to testify that days before the May 2008 immigration raid, Rubashkin scrambled to get new documents for his workers, at least 389 of whom were found to be illegal immigrants.
The plant filed for bankruptcy months after the raid and has since been sold. Prosecutors claim evidence of the massive fraud scheme was uncovered during an investigation by a court-appointed trustee.