During the trial, prosecutors focused on financial abuses when Rubashkin was in charge of the Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Postville. The sentence was unusually high in the recent history of financial crimes — longer than the term for Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former chief executive of Enron, and L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former chief executive of Tyco.
Lawyers for Rubashkin said they would appeal the decision, challenging the interpretation of federal sentencing guidelines by Judge Linda R. Reade. The appeal would expand the controversy surrounding the case, which has already included six former U.S. attorneys general writing to the judge to assail the prosecutors’ logic in seeking a term that could amount to a life sentence.
The raid on the Postville plant ultimately led to the bankruptcy of Agriprocessors, prison and deportation for hundreds of illegal immigrant workers and a battered economy for Postville, the NYT pointed out.
Rubashkin was convicted in November in a federal trial of 86 counts of financial fraud for his mishandling of a revolving loan from First Bank Business Capital of St. Louis, among other loans. After that conviction, prosecutors dismissed separate federal immigration charges. In a separate state trial in Iowa earlier this month, Rubashkin was acquitted of all charges that he knowingly employed under-age workers at the Agriprocessors plant.
Federal prosecutors originally asked for a life sentence for Rubashkin, but lessened their request to 25 years. In April, six former attorneys general, including Janet Reno and Edwin Meese III, wrote to Judge Reade arguing that a life sentence would be a severe misreading of the sentencing guidelines as applied to white-collar crimes.