Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, 58, an American Chabad rabbi, used to be the CEO of a kosher slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa, which he had grown into the largest kosher meat producer in the United States, until the plant was cited for animal mistreatment, food and environmental safety issues, child labor, and employing illegal aliens.
Rubashkin won his freedom because of an impressive campaign dating back to 2012 after an appellate court chose to let a 27-year sentence stand on the first-time, non-violent offender. In 2008, the plant was raided by federal officials, resulting in the arrest of 389 illegal immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala.
The White House also released numerous letters from "bipartisan leaders from across the political spectrum, from Nancy Pelosi to Orrin Hatch,"favoring the Rubashkin commutation".
In Feb. 23 letter to Trump, renewing the request for clemency, 60 Congressmen and Senators and over 100 attorneys, judges and law professors said the Rubashkin case represented a "manifest injustice" that will erode confidence in federal courts to "administer justice".
Trump's only pardon so far went to the 85-year-old former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. "President Trump has done what is right and just".
Meanwhile critics have pointed to allegations from hundreds of undocumented immigrants that Rubashkin fostered a hostile workplace that included 12-hour shifts without overtime pay, exposure to unsafe chemicals, and sexual harassment.
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Supporters (including the Chabad-Lubavitch sect of Orthodox Judaism) have long argued Rubashkin's sentence was considered severe compared to cases such as Enron's Jeff Skilling (24 years for fraud that cost shareholders $11 billion; later vacated) and WorldCom's Brenie Ebbers (25 years for a multibillion-dollar accounting scandal). "Mr. Rubashkin has now served more than 8 years of that sentence", the White House said in its statement, "which many have called excessive in light of its disparity with sentences imposed for similar crimes".
The president commuted the sentence for Sholom Rubashkin, and he returned to New York Wednesday, stopping in Monsey, Rockland County.
But former prosecutor Bob Teig, who retired in 2011 after serving as a prosecutor and spokesman for the USA attorney's office for the Northern District of Iowa, said Trump's decision to commute Rubashkin's sentence "makes no sense" given Trump's repeated promises to get tougher on illegal immigration.
A bipartisan group of more than 100 former high-ranking and distinguished Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, prosecutors, judges, and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the evidentiary proceedings in Mr. Rubashkin's case and the severity of his sentence.
"The outrage is backwards", he said.