Justices of the United States Supreme Court
went home last week without giving any thought
to Sholom Rubashkin. So Rubashkin stays put
in federal prison in Otisville, N.Y.
No one is saying he isn’t guilty of the 86 financial
crimes he was convicted of following the May
2008 federal raid on the Agriprocessors kosher
meatpacking plant he ran in Postville, a massive
raid that led to the arrest of 389 undocumented
workers. After he was convicted of the financial
charges — including bank fraud and money laundering
to make Agriprocessors seem something that it
wasn’t — the government withdrew the 72 immigration
charges against him.
The government urged Federal District Court
Judge Linda Reade to sentence Rubashkin to 25
years in prison, a recommendation that most
authorities thought was particularly harsh and
far out-of-line for a 51-year-old, first-time,
nonviolent offender who was not a thug. Reade
listened — and then sentenced Rubashkin to an
astonishing 27 years. The sentence was upheld
by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St.
After the trial, Rubashkin’s lawyers discovered
that Reade was more than just a disinterested
judge. Freedom of Information requests produced
documents that showed she had worked closely
with federal agents and prosecutors before the
raid. The documents “suggested coordination
between the judge and the prosecution not just
on logistical matters, but on strategy and other
substance,” according to a friend-of-the-court
brief filed with the action seeking review by
the Supreme Court.
That’s just not any brief. It is signed by 86
former Attorneys General of the United States,
senior Department of Justice officials, United
States Attorneys and federal judges. Many served
under President George W. Bush, who appointed
Reade to the bench in 2002. They say the facts
“strongly suggest” justice was subverted in
All that is history.
The latest, though, is an article published
last month in the National Law Journal by Robert
Steinbuch, a legal-ethics professor at the University
of Arkansas, and Brett Tolman, a former U.S.
Attorney in Utah. They call the details of the
case “tragic and frightening: prosecutorial
overcharging, a federal judge who inappropriately
communicated in secret with government agents
and attorneys, a prosecution that articulated
a special bail rule only for Jews, a case that
persisted after all of the initial claims were
dismissed, and a parallel state case that typifies
improper piling on motivated by politics.”
None of this makes Reade look particularly good.
It’s especially noticed when you are criticized
by former attorneys general Ed Meese and Dick
Thornburgh, and onetime Solicitor General (among
other things) Ken Starr, and former FBI directors
William Sessions and Louis Freeh, among others.
Those others, incidentally, include Jim Reynolds,
who was U.S. Attorney for the northern district
of Iowa from 1977 to 1982.
These folks and others are supporting the petition
by Rubashkin’s lawyers asking the Supreme Court
to review the decision. The High Court gets
about 8,000 such petitions a year and usually
grants 80 or so. But “with the names they have”
in support, Rubashkin’s lawyers probably have
a better chance than most petitioners, says
one guy who has been following the case closely.
At any rate, now that the Justices have closed
up shop for the summer, we won’t know till September.
Meantime, Rubashkin will spend another summer
in the Catskills, where he wrote in a letter
to his children this year, “the sights of all
that is unholy assail one’s eyes...the ears
ache as they come under the nonstop barrage
of the loud vulgar talk peppered by screams
and shouts of nothingness, amplified and echoing
off the high cement brickwalls.” ...
How could Jake Highfill have run a widely noted
— and successful — campaign to upset legislator
Eric Helland without anyone noticing a lawsuit
against Highfill by his University of Iowa roommate
and onetime close buddy? Reporters, party officials
and opponents regularly check court dockets
to vet their candidates or, in the case of opponents,
get the dirt on them.
Yet no one seemed to notice until the other
day that the 22-year-old Highfill, now the Republican
legislative candidate from Johnston, is the
defendant in a pretty nasty lawsuit that was
filed months before he beat two-term incumbent
and Majority Whip Helland in a close primary
The suit was filed Oct. 13, 2011, in Polk County
District Court. It claims that on the evening
of Oct. 16, 2010, Highfill had a shotgun at
a party at the place where he and his friend
since high school, Carson Kness, shared a house
in Iowa City. According to the suit, Kness told
him to put the shotgun away. An argument ensued,
the suit says, and Highfill then hit Kness in
the face with a glass bottle, causing a laceration
that required 39 stitches to close and that
left a scar 9 centimeters long on his cheek.
Kness is alleging assault and battery, negligence
and “intentional action causing injury,” according
to court papers, and is seeking a judgment to
cover past and future medical expenses, past
and future physical and mental pain and suffering,
permanent disfigurement and lost wages. Highfill
is pleading self-defense.
The court papers sat unnoticed for eight months
until Ashlee Kieler of the online community-news
service Patch wrote about it Friday. The fact
that the suit went unnoticed is especially odd
in that the race was unusual — few incumbents
face serious primary challenges — and unpleasant.
Highfill upset Helland by 50 votes after filing
an ethics complaint claiming that the incumbent
offered him a job if he’d get out of the race.
The complaint was dismissed by the House Ethics
Committee on a 4-2 vote.
Highfill now will face Democrat Kelsey Clark
of Grimes in November. The district is heavily
Republican. If he wins, he might have to miss
a few opening days of the new session. Trial
is set for January. ...
Why would Glen Oaks kick out the Principal Charity
Classic? It’s privately owned, it appears to
be doing OK after years of struggle, and its
members are tired of folks trampling all over
their playground, appears to be the consensus.
Why would Des Moines Golf and Country say “no,”
too? It doesn’t need the money.
According to tax returns for the year ended
Oct. 31, 2010, the club had a profit of $561,262,
though clubs don’t use the word profit. It had
revenue of $7,803,679 and expenses of $7,242,417.
It also had retained earnings on its balance
sheet of $8.5 million.
Wakonda Club, which also is being looked at
as a potential host of the tournament, could
use the $300,000 or so that the tournament antes
up. In the year ended Oct. 31, 2011, the club
on Fleur Drive had revenue of $5,415,895 and
a loss of $247,364, which came on top of a year-earlier
loss of $320,045. And it has no retained earnings
on its balance sheet, according to its tax return.
Hyperion, which might also be in play, had a
loss of $136,987 in the latest year, the tax
Because it’s private, Glen Oaks does not have
to disclose its tax returns.
Jim Cutter, the general manager of Des Moines
Golf, earned $226,135 in the latest year for
which returns are available. David Schneider,
the general manager of Wakonda, earned $159,434
and also got a $7,500 bonus. No one at Hyperion
made more than $100,000, the tax returns indicate.
Iowa State University last week released Fred
Hoiberg’s 16-page “contract” to coach basketball
at the school through April 30, 2020. It pays
him $1.2 million in the coming season, and he
gets raises of $100,000 each year after that.
He gets a $50,000 bonus each time the team gets
to the NCAA tournament — and $25,000 for each
victory in the tournament — and there are other
bonuses for conference championships and the
like. He also gets a car and membership in the
Ames Country Club.
Iowa State can fire him if it turns out he is
a mass murderer or if his behavior “shows a
lack of loyalty to, and contempt for, the University
and its mission or goals.” Or a few other equally
unlikely circumstances. But he can’t be fired
for coaching decisions, team performance, public
unhappiness with the win-loss record, or “other
general displeasure at the direction or success
of the basketball program.” But if the school
fires him without cause, he gets a lump sum
payment of 50 percent of all money due him until
the termination of the contract.
If Hoiberg quits to become a head coach at an
NCAA Division I school or head coach or general
manager of an NBA team, he gets everything he
earned up to that date and he agrees to pay
the university $500,000. He can leave without
penalty if the university toughens the admission
or eligibility standards for athletes. And he
can resign with no penalty if he wants to do
something other than be a head coach — run for
Governor, teach first-graders or just count
his money. ...
Forbes Magazine last week said Des Moines is
the fourth best city in the nation for business.
It was the third year in a row that Des Moines
was in the top five. In December, The Wall Street
Journal’s Market Watch said Des Moines was the
third best city for business, and again it was
the third year in a row Des Moines was in the
top five. Earlier this year, Policom ranked
greater Des Moines as the area with the second
best economic strength in the nation — second
only to Washington, D.C.
If all of this is true, central Iowans must
be wondering why politicians are dead set on
changing the state’s tax structure, especially
in reducing the property tax on commercial operations.
Why not leave well-enough alone? ...
“I want to do everything I think of and I don’t
really let anything bind me. At work I have
a line that I don’t cross because I always want
to be ethical, honest, and lead in a very precise
way. When not on duty I like to blur that line.
I like to take chances, do whatever my heart
desires, and regret nothing.”
Army captain John Hintz might be having second
thoughts about that “regret nothing” thing.