Lawyers seek bail for Iowa slaughterhouse manager

AP News
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Posted: Nov 18, 2009 6:05 PM

A bail hearing for a former Iowa kosher slaughterhouse manager convicted of financial fraud turned testy Wednesday when a prosecutor accused the manager of lying in court.

The bail hearing in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids followed former Agriprocessors Inc. manager Sholom Rubashkin's conviction last week on 86 counts of financial fraud. Rubashkin's attorneys argued he should be allowed to remain free on bail until he's sentenced, and prosecutors claimed Rubashkin is a flight risk.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan said Rubashkin committed bank fraud when he was released on bail following his initial arrest in October 2008. The accusation sparked a heated exchange between Deegan and Rubashkin, who was on the witness stand.

"When you testified at trial, you didn't give truthful testimony, did you?" Deegan asked.

"I think you're lying under cross examination," Rubashkin responded.

Rubashkin faces a second trial on 72 immigration charges in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Dec. 2. The immigration and financial fraud charges stem from a massive immigration raid at the kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, in which 389 illegal immigrants were arrested.

Judge Linda Reade said she will rule on Rubashkin's bail soon. A sentencing for his conviction on financial fraud charges has not been set.

During his trial, Rubashkin allegedly asked an employee to hand over a missing computer storage device that held financial information about diverted money hidden from a lender bank. When asked about the device, Rubashkin told Deegan several times, "I bet you have it."

Rubashkin is being held at the Woodbury County jail in Sioux City, Iowa. He has said he is innocent of all charges, and his attorneys have said they will appeal his conviction.

Wednesday's hearing was the third related to Rubashkin's bail. After he was released on bail following an initial set of criminal charges in October 2008, prosecutors allege Rubashkin tampered with evidence. He was arrested and jailed again, but Reade reversed a U.S. magistrate judge's ruling and freed him on bail in late January.

Before his trial, the prosecution had to prove that Rubashkin was a flight risk. After a conviction, however, the burden is on the defense to prove that Rubashkin won't flee.

Defense attorney Guy Cook said Rubashkin followed every direction of the court while he was out on bail and wore a GPS monitor before his trial. Rubashkin was allowed several trips out of Allamakee County, including one to New York City. He said under questioning that he passed dozens of airports through which he could have fled the country.

Neither Cook nor U.S. attorney's office spokesman Bob Teig would comment after the hearing.

During the hearing, prosecutors tried to use an earlier defense argument to keep Rubashkin, who is an Orthodox Jew, out of jail. When he was first arrested, Rubashkin's attorneys said his ties to his 10 children, the expectations of the Jewish community and the financial support of thousands of donors would keep him from leaving the country.

Deegan argued Wednesday that things have changed: Now that Rubashkin faces a certain jail sentence, he's more likely to leave the country and take his family with him, using the money from donors. He said Rubashkin's behavior on the witness stand during the hearing showed his true colors.

"This is the true Sholom Rubashkin you have to consider: combative and argumentative," Deegan said. "A man who will say anything that suits the moment.

"He does have a motivation not to show up for sentencing."

Cook maintained that Rubashkin would not flee because of his children and ties to the area, adding that after the trial, Rubashkin has "nowhere to hide."

"The entire Jewish world is watching," Cook said.