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Defense: Manager Didn't See Dozens of Underage Workers

Fri, 06/04/2010 - 6:06am

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — The former manager of a kosher Iowa slaughterhouse did not want underage workers at the plant, defense attorneys told jurors during closing arguments Thursday.

Jury deliberations were expected to begin Friday morning in the child labor trial of Sholom Rubashkin, the former manager of the Agriprocessors Inc. kosher slaughterhouse in Postville. He faces 67 counts of allowing children to work excessive hours and around dangerous equipment and chemicals.

"Our defense is complete, total, wall-to-wall Mr. Rubashkin didn't permit the employment of minors at the plant," Mark Weinhardt, an attorney for Rubashkin, told jurors during the defense's three-hour presentation.

Weinhardt said Rubashkin's "mistake was trusting" the personnel department. Prosecutors have argued there is evidence dozens of children were working at the plant on the day of a May 2008 immigration raid.

After the final arguments were given, Judge Nathan Callahan decided to allow one alternate to accompany the jury into deliberations because of the possibility of illness. Both sides agreed to the arrangement. One juror's apparent sickness caused two breaks in the state's rebuttal argument Thursday.

Callahan also ruled that Rubashkin will remain in the Black Hawk County Jail in Waterloo while jurors are deliberating. Rubashkin was being held at the Linn County Jail in Cedar Rapids and brought to Waterloo each day for the trial.

During closing arguments, Rubashkin's attorneys hammered away at the credibility of Matt Derrick, a former Agriprocessors employee who was the only state witness to say he told the executive the plant had underage workers before an investigation started in 2008.

Defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown said the prosecution's case amounted to arguing that Rubashkin knew minors had jobs at the plant simply by seeing them on the plant floor.

Brown put on a hard hat and long white frock used by Agriprocessors workers and turned his back to the jury panel.

"Do I look the same as I did three seconds ago? Can you tell how old I am?" he asked.

Rubashkin is also awaiting sentencing on federal fraud convictions connected to bank loans the company received.

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