The medium-security federal prison at Otisville, NY freed 58-year old Sholom Rubashkin Wednesday because President Donald J. Trump commuted the remaining 20 years of his sentence.
Rubashkin won his freedom because of an impressive campaign dating back to 2012 after an appellate court decided to let a 27-year sentence stand on the first-time, non-violent offender.
More than 100 former Attorneys General, Deputy Attorneys General, FBI Directors, Solicitor General, Federal Judges, U.S. Attorney, State Attorneys General and law professors signed letters requesting executive clemency for Rubashkin. The White House also released numerous letters from “bipartisan leaders from across the political spectrum, from Nancy Pelosi to Orrin Hatch,”favoring the Rubashkin commutation.
Rubashkin’s troubles began with the 2008 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid of Agriprocessors Inc.’s kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, IA. That led to Rubashkin’s federal indictment on bank fraud and related charges.
The role of Linda R. Reade, chief judge for the U.S. Court for Northern Iowa captured national attention, both for the stiff sentence and his involvement with the original ICE raid.
When, upon review, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th District in St. Louis found the judge’s actions were acceptable, there was an unsuccessful attempt in 2012 to obtain a Writ of Certiorari for the U.S. Supreme Court to review Reade’s actions.
Former President Barack Obama exercised his constitutional power to grant executive clemency—including pardons and commutations– for 1,927 individuals convicted of federal crimes. But Rubashkin was not among them.
The attorneys and law professors renewed their campaign once Trump was President-elect. They claimed Rubashkin’s 27-year sentence–for fraud offenses for inflating collateral to obtain a higher line of credit and being 11 days late in paying for some cattle– was “far longer than the median sentences for murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse, child pornography…”
In Feb. 23 letter to Trump, renewing the request for clemency, 60 Congressmen and Senators and over 100 attorneys, judges and law professors said the Rubashkin case represented a “manifest injustice” that will erode confidence in federal courts to “administer justice.”
The presidential action is a commutation of the remaining prison sentence, not a pardon. It means Rubashkin’s conviction remains and his term of supervised release and restitution obligations remain.
Trump’s only pardon so far went to the 85-year-old former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio.
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