IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday moved the trial of four former managers of a kosher slaughterhouse that was the site of a massive immigration raid from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Sioux Falls, S.D.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade wrote in the order that negative pretrial publicity about Agriprocessors, Inc., and former top manager Sholom Rubashkin caused potential jurors to develop a bias against them.
The trial has been set for Oct. 13.
"The court finds that the pretrial publicity in the community is so extensive and inflammatory that it raises a presumption that an impartial jury could not be seated in the Northern District of Iowa in October of 2009," Reade said.
The order was the second victory for Rubashkin's defense team, which earlier asked for and received a month's delay in the trial.
Rubashkin and three co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to immigration, bank fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud charges.
The charges followed a huge immigration raid at Agriprocessors' plant in Postville, Iowa, in 2008. Nearly 400 workers were arrested.
The company also operated a plant near Gordon, Neb., that wasn't involved in the allegations.
Agriprocessors, once the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse, later filed for bankruptcy protection and was sold in July to a newly formed company, SHF Industries. The Gordon plant was not part of that deal and will be sold separately.
Reade denied the change of venue request twice before, but she ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to craft a questionnaire that was submitted in June to 510 residents in northeast Iowa. In the order, Reade said she read each response and determined that Rubashkin could not get a fair trial.
"The completed juror questionnaires ... demonstrate that the prodigious amount of negative pretrial publicity has caused the vast majority of potential jurors to develop and maintain a pervasive, strong bias against defendants Rubashkin and (Agriprocessors)," Reade wrote.
Reade wrote that the population in and around Sioux Falls is "comparable" to the population of Cedar Rapids. She said there has been minimal publicity surrounding the case in South Dakota and issued a warning to lawyers on both sides to "refrain from speaking with the press" on the matter, particularly South Dakota outlets.
Noting the order, both defense attorney Guy Cook and U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Bob Teig declined to comment.