The Haredi Jewish community in the U.S. has reacted with "shock and disgust" to the 27-year jail sentence handed down to a former Iowa kosher slaughterhouse executive, said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the executive vice president of the National Council of Young Israel.
Sholom Rubashkin, a 51-year-old former vice president of Agriprocessors Inc., was sentenced Tuesday to 27 years in prison for financial fraud and ordered to pay $27 million in restitution by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Linda R. Reade, who had released a memorandum outlining the sentence a day earlier.
A jury convicted Rubashkin last fall of 86 federal financial fraud charges. Defense attorney Guy Cook said he plans to appeal. About 100 supporters gathered outside the courthouse Tuesday, some holding signs reading "We want fair & equal justice."
Agudat Israel, a Haredi Jewish communal organization, said in a statement that the sentence marked "a dark day for the American legal system and American Judaism."
"We don't justify Mr. Rubashkin's transgressions but this grave and extraordinary sentence given to one of our Jewish brothers is causing shock and worry in our community. This is a terrible development."
Prosecutors had sought a 25-year sentence, but called the slightly longer punishment "entirely appropriate."
"It is a lengthy sentence, but he earned it by everything he did," U.S attorney spokesman Bob Teig said.
Rubashkin oversaw the plant in Postville, Iowa, that gained attention in 2008 after a large-scale immigration raid in which authorities detained 389 illegal immigrants. The plant eventually filed for bankruptcy and was later sold.
After an investigation by a court-appointed trustee, prosecutors alleged Rubashkin intentionally deceived the company's lender and directed employees to create fake invoices in order to show St. Louis-based First Bank the plant had more money flowing in than it did. Cook tried to portray Rubashkin as a bumbling businessman who never even read the loan agreement with First Bank.
Rubashkin also faced 72 charges for allegedly allowing illegal immigrants to work at the plant but Reade dismissed those charges and a jury acquitted Rubashkin of state child labor charges earlier this month.