DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Attorneys on Friday appealed the conviction of a former Iowa kosher meatpacking plant executive accused of bank fraud, saying the judge wrongly allowed jurors to hear evidence about a massive immigration raid at the plant and the 27-year prison sentence was unjust.
An appeal for Sholom Rubashkin, who also was ordered to pay $27 million in restitution, was filed with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
The former Agriprocessors Inc. vice president was sentenced June 22 following his conviction last fall on 86 federal financial fraud charges. Prosecutors said he intentionally deceived the company's lender and told employees to create fake invoices that showed inflated profits.
His attorney, Guy Cook, said U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade should not have allowed evidence about the raid and the sentence she imposed amounts to a life sentence for the 51-year-old Rubashkin.
"We believe flagrant errors in the prosecution and trial as well as the unjust sentence requires a reversal," Cook said.
Rubashkin also was indicted on dozens of immigration-related charges after 389 suspected illegal immigrants were detained during a raid of the Postville plant in May 2008. The judge eventually dismissed those charges, and a separate jury acquitted Rubashkin of state child labor charges weeks before he was sentenced on the federal charges.
Cook said evidence about the raid and immigration charges was improperly allowed at the bank fraud trial. Cook also said he would be challenging other issues, including a lack of evidence to support the bank fraud charges and to show Rubashkin had intent to profit from the alleged scheme.
The appeal wasn't unexpected, U.S. attorney spokesman Bob Teig said Friday.
Teig declined further comment, but said last week after Rubashkin was sentenced that the prison term was justified and information about illegal immigrants working at the plant was an integral part of the fraud investigation.
Cook said Rubashkin remains in custody at the Linn County jail in Cedar Rapids, where he awaits assignment to a federal prison.
Cook asked during sentencing that Rubashkin be transferred to a facility near New York or in New Jersey to be closer to family. The attorney said those prisons are better prepared to handle Orthodox Jewish customs and practices. It was unclear whether the transfer request would be granted.