A federal judge in Iowa refused again Monday to set bail for Shlomo Rubashkin, the former CEO of Agriprocessors, Inc., the bankrupt kosher slaughterhouse, who has been charged with bank fraud and immigration law violations.
“Defendant does not offer any additional facts relating to detention, but simply offers additional conditions which he believes will reasonably assure his appearance at trial,” wrote Magistrate Jon Stuart Scoles.
“The court concludes that defendant’s suggestion of additional conditions of release under these circumstances does not support reconsideration,” he added.
Scoles made passing reference to Israel’s Law of Return, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter E. Deegan, Jr., had argued made Rubashkin a flight risk because the law allows all Jews to become citizens the moment they enter the country.
In Scoles’ Nov. 20 decision denying Rubashkin bail, the judge cited the law and noted that at least one other Agriprocessors’ defendant — who held Israeli citizenship — had already fled to Israel.
Defense attorneys pounced on the government’s claim in asking Scoles to reconsider his decision.
“It is ironic that a law designed to provide refuge to persecuted Jews has now become the basis for detaining Jews who might otherwise have been released pending trial,” they wrote.
Deegan repeated the argument in his legal brief rebutting Rubashkin’s quest for a new bail hearing. He cited the fact that Rubashkin and his wife had traveled to Israel last December as evidence that he has “ties to a foreign country.” He also submitted to the court Rubashkin’s travel itinerary and a receipt from a hotel in Israel.
Deegan wrote also that the “government’s argument that defendant is incrementally more likely to flee because of his de facto citizenship in a foreign country is hardly unusual.” He then cited the case of a defendant who held both U.S. and Iranian citizenship and dual passports.
The prosecutor noted also that it is indisputable that Rubashkin is entitled to Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Law of Return that grants any Jew the right to citizenship and to settle in Israel.
“That defendant’s right to foreign citizenship is based upon defendant’s cultural heritage is solely a matter of foreign law,” the prosecutor argued. “It simply makes no difference, for the purposes of the government’s argument, how that right is derived. Accordingly, it is a mischaracterization to say the government’s argument improperly accounts for defendant’s race or religion.”
Marc Stern, acting co-executive director of the American Jewish Congress and an attorney, said he found “very troubling” the government’s argument that Jews are a greater flight risk because of Israel’s Law of Return.
“I don’t know why the government refuses to withdraw this claim,” he said. “When the implications of the argument were called to the government’s attention and they persisted in it, you have to wonder what is really going on.”
Stern pointed out that Jews are sensitive to allegations that they have loyalty to both the United States and Israel.
“If the government persists in this, we have to wonder what somebody is thinking — or more importantly what somebody is not thinking,” he added.
But in denying Rubashkin a new bail hearing, Scoles said Rubashkin’s lawyers had attached “too much significance” to his mention of the Law of Return in his decision. In fact, he said, he accepts the statement of Rubashkin’s lawyer, Baruch Weiss, that his client would be subject to extradition should he flee to Israel.
Weiss said he plans to appeal the judge’s decision to District Court Judge Linda Reade.
“The position the prosecutor has taken is unconscionable and outrageous,” he said. “We are going to appeal the judge’s decision and hope the prosecutor will not repeat this unconstitutional argument.”