Trump commutes Jewish businessman’s ‘disproportionate’ sentence

The Orthodox Jewish head of the largest kosher meat processing company in America has been freed after eight years in jail.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Sholom Rubashkin, a member of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement who was sentenced in 2009 to 27 years in prison after being convicted of fraud and money laundering, is now free. President Donald Trump commuted his sentence on Wednesday, marking the first commutation since Trump took office.

The decision was “encouraged by bipartisan leaders from across the political spectrum, from Nancy Pelosi to Orrin Hatch,” said a statement from the White House. In addition, “A bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking and distinguished Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the evidentiary proceedings in Mr. Rubashkin’s case and the severity of his sentence.”

At the time, such prominent attorneys as Harvard professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, former U.S. Solicitor general Kenneth Starr and former Attorney General Janet Reno had called the sentence “disproportionate and shocking” for a first-time, non-violent offender. Tens of thousands of ordinary people also signed a petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, asking that President Obama investigate the case, to no avail.

Nevertheless, commutation does not mean a pardon, so Rubashkin must still make millions of dollars in restitution payments to banks that the court had ordered, and be supervised by the authorities for five years following his release.

The 57-year-old father of ten had run the Agriprocessors Kosher Meat Plant in Postville, Iowa, which federal authorities said employed hundreds of illegal immigrants, including children. They also charged him with bank fraud for submitting invoices to a bank that made his company’s finances appear rosier than they actually were in order to borrow more money.

Rubashkin also defaulted on loans after his funds were frozen due to the federal investigation into the alleged child labor violations. Rubashkin was acquitted of child labor violations, and the prosecution did not ultimately pursue immigration-related charges.

Rubashkin served his sentence in Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville in Mount Hope, New York, where services are provided to religious Jewish inmates.