Orthodox Jews Angered by Obama Nominee
A former U.S. Attorney appointed by President Obama who previously came under scrutiny by the Jewish Orthodox community may soon be confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a federal judgeship, after she received a majority vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Stephanie Rose, 39, was recently nominated for a lifetime appointment by President Obama in the Southern District of Iowa.
Rose’s appointment is controversial within the Orthodox Jewish community because of her previous involvement in the prosecution of Sholom Rubashkin, the former CEO of a now-bankrupt, Iowa-based Kosher meatpacking company that was accused of employing hundreds of illegal immigrants and violating child labor laws.
Rubashkin’s company, Agriprocessors, reportedly the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, had its Postville, Iowa plant raided by federal officials and shut down in May 2008. FBI and Homeland Security agents stormed the plant and arrested 389 illegal workers, which was at the time the largest raid in the United States.
Rose “fast-tracked” those prosecutions, a term used within the legal community for expeditious charging and plea bargains, a process widely used by state and federal prosecutors in the past, including former Bush administration Attorney General, John Ashcroft.
In November 2009, Rubashkin was prosecuted by then U.S. Attorney Rose in the Northern District of Iowa and he was convicted of 86 counts of financial crimes including bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. A few months later in June 2010, he was sentenced to a stunning 27 years in federal prison even after being acquitted of violating child labor laws in a separate trial. Rubashkin appealed the conviction, but a federal court of appeals ruled against him in September 2011.
Although no one seems to have disputed Rubashkin’s crimes, many in the legal community felt the Justice Department’s pursuit for a life sentence was overzealous and that his actual sentence of 27 years was unusually harsh.
“Our sense is that the call for a life sentence is completely disproportionate,” Alyza D. Lewin, Rubashkin's attorney, told ABC News in 2010. "This is a first-time, non-violent offender. He has 10 children. One of them is severely autistic. He has done tremendous charitable work. To suggest that his activities warrant life in prison, where you put murderers, people who represent an ongoing threat to society, it makes no sense.”
Several prominent members of the legal community joined Rubashkin’s public relations and legal team including former Attorney Generals Ramsey Clark, Nicholas de B. Katezenbach, Edwin Messe and Dick Thornburgh and William Barr, according to ABC News.
In addition, according to ABC, U.S. Representative Bob Barr (R-GA) complained that the sentence was more extreme than financial crimes mastermind Bernard Madoff who spun a $65 billion decade-long Ponzi scheme, and the Anti-Defamation League wrote a letter to the Justice Department complaining that it was inappropriate to deem Rubashkin a flight risk because he was Jewish, and could thus escape to Israel.
Some members of the Jewish Orthodox community have expressed concern about his prison term, saying that it is unusually harsh, wondering if the entire debacle sprung from “a little bit of anti-Semitism.”
Suspicion about the Rubashkin prosecution has probably gained some credibility because of previous allegations that Obama’s Justice Department, under the directorship of former Washington, D.C. U.S. Attorney Eric Holder is guided primarily by racial politics instead of the law.
In his 2011 book, Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department, former DOJ lawyer J. Christian Adams makes the claim that Holder has guided his prosecutions on race based concepts instead of the law, and that he has refrained from prosecuting potential African-American targets while focusing on other groups instead.
Still, no actual evidence has surfaced that proves the Rubashkin prosecution and conviction was unfounded. U.S. Senators questioning Rose during her confirmation proceedings did however take issue with an actual accusation of discrimination that has been filed against her in federal court—age discrimination.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that he did not feel Rose’s character as U.S. Attorney in the Rubashkin matter should be at issue because she was acting mostly out of orders from Washington.
Instead, Grassley brought attention to a recent lawsuit filed by one of Rose’s former employees, Martha Fagg, a 55-year old Assistant U.S. Attorney who worked for the Civil Division in Sioux City. Fagg has claimed that Rose discriminated against her in retaliation for raising issues of possible age-discrimination. Fagg brought it to Rose’s attention that her alleged comments about forecasting the retirement of some of the more experienced, and therefore older attorneys could be perceived within the office as age discrimination.
Fagg’s attorney, Michael Carroll, acknowledged that Rubashkin supporters have been grasping at the former AUSA’s lawsuit against Rose hoping to make a link to their own accusations of discrimination and anti-Semitism. He also said their complaint was totally unrelated to Rose’s nomination for a judgeship. In a series of telephone and e-mail exchanges with Breitbart News, Carroll said:
Our client Martha Fagg believes, and the Complaint alleges, that she was subjected to unlawful discrimination and retaliation for complaining about discrimination in the office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa. Ms. Fagg wanted to resolve the matter short of litigation and tried to do so but was unsuccessful in accomplishing that goal. That is why the lawsuit was filed. The timing of the lawsuit has nothing at all to do with Ms. Rose’s nomination to the federal bench. Through this lawsuit my client hopes to achieve some measure of vindication and begin the process of repairing her good name.
Rose will likely replace Chief Judge Robert Pratt on July 1.