Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Rabbi Rubashkin’s Freedom

Editorial of The New York Sun | December 21, 2017

President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin is being celebrated tonight in the world of religious Jewry. It is the world the Rabbi had served, heroically in the view of many, as president of what was, the report in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency notes, the largest kosher slaughterhouse in America. He had been convicted on various counts of fraud allegedly committed as he tried to keep his company afloat.

The commutation is notable for a number of reasons. Rubashkin’s sentence of 27 years, handed down in 2010, was shockingly severe after a prosecution that took on, in the eyes of many, a vindictive tone. It horrified a number of distinguished figures. Among those who supported a presidential review were three former attorneys general of America (Bill Barr, Michael Mukasey, and Edwin Meese), a former solicitor general, Seth Waxman, and an erstwhile director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, himself a one-time United States district judge.

Supporters of a presidential review also included more than 30 congressmen and senators from left, right, and center. Mr. Trump cited their messages in announcing his decision to commute Rubashkin’s sentence. It is remarkable that Mr. Trump acted even though the rabbi was originally ensnared in a raid in search of undocumented workers at Rubashkin’s plant, known as Agriprocessors, in Iowa. Mr. Trump has sought to make a political issue of such employment.

What we find most notable about the case, though, is the way it illuminates the role of the presidential pardon. This is an example of it being used in its most profound constitutional sense — not so much as an act of mercy, though it may have have been that, but as a way to correct a miscarriage of justice. Mr. Rubashkin was rebuffed in the courts, including the highest one, which refused to hear his appeal. Mr. Trump’s action falls short of a full pardon, but a runaway prosecution has been rectified in a considered constitutional way.

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