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Trump issues his first commutation to Brooklyn meatpacking executive

22 December 2017, 12:56 | Marta Robbins

White House

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WASHINGTON-President Donald Trump commuted his first prison sentence since taking office Wednesday, reducing the sentence of Sholom Rubashkin, the former head of a Kosher-meat processing plant convicted of bank fraud, by almost 20 years.

The White House further noted criticism of Rubashkin's sentencing as unusually harsh in comparison to penalties imposed on others for similar white-collar crimes.

The Daily News reported Rubashkin was first arrested in 2008, after the Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs enforcement raided the Iowa plant and arrested nearly 400 undocumented immigrants.

"Mr. Rubashkin is a devoted husband and father, a deeply religious man who simply doesn't deserve a sentence of this length, or anything remotely close to it", the letter read. The drop in value left Agriprocessors' bank with a $27 million loss - a figure used to calculate Rubashkin's sentence under federal guidelines.

The White House statement cited letters of support for review of Rubashkin's case from more than 30 members of Congress of both parties, including House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and veteran Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.

"This action is not a Presidential pardon", the statement said. The commutation does not vacate Rubashkin's conviction and leaves in place a parole term and restitution obligation.

Rubashkin is the former CEO of Agriprocessors, a large kosher meatpacking company that was raided in 2008.

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"This action is not a Presidential pardon", President Trump wrote.

More than 100 USA attorneys general, judges, and other judicial professionals signed a letter to Trump in February, pleading for clemency on Rubashkin's behalf. USA federal Judge Linda Reade hit Rubaskin with a sentence of 27 years, two more than prosecutors had requested.

In 2009, Rubashkin was convicted of defrauding a St. Louis bank by using fabricated numbers to obtain a $35 million line of credit for the bank, resulting in the 27-year prison sentence. Robert Teig, a former federal prosecutor in Iowa, said that Rubashkin's sentence "was what he earned because of his conduct" and that "it's a sad state when politics are allowed to interfere with the justice system".

Despite six amicus briefs joined by numerous legal heavyweights, the Supreme Court in 2012 denied a petition from Rubashkin to look into his case and sentencing.

The White House said the president's decision to review Rubashkin's sentence was driven by concerns raised by a bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking law enforcement and Justice Department officials, including multiple former attorneys general, as well as prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars.

News of Rubashkin's release spread rapidly in the Orthodox Jewish community, and was greeted with jubilation by the Lubavitch Chabad Hasidic community to which Rubashkin belongs.



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