WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — A former night shift supervisor at an Iowa slaughterhouse testified Friday that minors "definitely" worked at the plant.
Mark Andrew Spangler told jurors that anyone who walked through the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville could tell many workers were underage because of the way they looked and acted. At least half the workers on the night shift were under 18, Spangler testified during the trial of former company manager Sholom Rubashkin, who is accused of violating child labor laws.
"Anybody that's been in the business as long as I have can tell when it's a child working out there on the floor," said Spangler, an 18-year industry veteran. "Unless you're blind, you know."
He said they would throw things at each other and flirt.
"It'd be like walking into a junior high school gymnasium," he said.
Rubashkin faces 83 counts of child labor violations stemming from a May 2008 raid at the plant where 389 illegal immigrants, including children, were detained. If convicted, he could face 30 days in jail for each count.
Spangler said everyone at the plant — including top executives — saw what he saw because they had to enter and exit the plant through the same set of doors. Spangler said he reported to the plant manager, who in turn reported to Rubashkin's brother, Heshy Rubashkin.
Earlier Friday, defense attorneys challenged the credibility of former underage workers who had testified.
Attorney's for Rubashkin questioned why former Agriprocessors employees who took the stand couldn't remember telling investigators that they didn't think minors worked at the plant.
Prosecutors argued that communication barriers and a lack of knowledge about the U.S. legal system hindered testimony of the former workers from Guatemala and Mexico.
Former plant worker Yukary Hernandez Gonzalez said Friday she couldn't remember telling investigators that she was never injured on the job or that no other minors worked at the plant, but she later said she could tell minors worked there because there faces "looked like children."
She said a document with her signature on it from an interview at an immigration center in Tallahassee, Fla. was accurate. It read: "There were other minors in the area. The supervisors could tell they were minors because they looked young. And the workers talked openly about how old everyone was."
Another former worker, Sevlin Godinez, testified that he was arrested during the raid and was brought before a judge with nine others to plead guilty to working with false documents. Among all the activity, he could not remember being interviewed by a state investigator, he said.
"I was afraid. I don't know," he said. "The only thing I could think of in the moment is what would happen to my family in Guatemala."