December 20, 2010

A Good Day in Court for Shalom Rubashkin

He was portrayed as a vicious person, one who employs minors and thinks nothing of children handling knives. Even in his federal conviction for bank fraud, he was portrayed as a monster; one that prosecutors argued deserves life imprisonment, a disproportionate sentence for the crimes that he was accused of. After all, who could forget the unprecedented government raid of hundreds of armed law enforcement officials that led to the eventual bankruptcy of Agriprocessor. Shalom Rubashkin was according to a coalition of unions, liberal rabbis, extremist animal rights advocates, and even Church officials nothing short of a villain who perpetrated vicious crimes. Crimes? Not one of the charges made against Mr. Rubashkin in the raid stuck and a jury last week acquitted him of the remaining 68 charges of child labor. The raid, it turns out, was an unbelievable blemish on overzealous law enforcement.

As I look back on this case (and yes I did represent Shalom Rubashkin for a period of time, as it turns out for a just cause), the saddest part of this tragedy is that so many people denied Shalom Rubashkin of a fundamental right: a day in court. He was prejudged, convicted and even hung before evidence was ever presented in court. It behooves me that people who spoke in the name of justice saw nothing wrong with destroying a man, a family, and a business. They were so sure of their cause that they cast aspersions on the ability of government and kashrus organizations to care for animals and laborers. They indeed got their pound of flesh but in the end of the day there should be no question about their destroyed credibility. My hope is that we learned a valuable lesson of never rushing to judgment before a man or woman has had their day in court.