by David Reutter
The Iowa federal judge who oversaw the judicial proceeds for about 400 undocumented immigrants who were arrested at the country's largest kosher slaughterhouse may have committed ethical violations by coordinating the raid.
The May 12, 2008 raid made headlines for being the largest workplace raid to date, and its judicial proceedings caused congress to hold hearings. Little known, however, was the financial windfall that accrued to federal Judge Linda R. Reade's husband. Five days before the raid, her husband bought between $30,000 and $100,000 worth of Corrections Cooperation of America (aka CoreCivic) and GEO Group stock.
In March 2008, Reade attended a meeting with U.S. Attorney Office officials where the "parties discussed an overview of charging strategies," an Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo stated. Reade learned that about 700 arrests were expected, and she "indicated full support for the initiative."
Following those meetings, Reade and other court official created "scripts" for the post-raid hearing that included model plea bargains. Once the plant was raided, the arrested were taken to the National Cattle Congress, a fairground where several judges handled hearings over nine days.
Typically illegal immigrants are charged with civil violations and deported. In this situation, many were charged with criminal fraud for using falsified work documents or social security numbers. About 270 people were sentenced to five months in federal prison. One witness called it a "judicial assembly line."
It is not known how many of those sentenced to prison landed in private prisons. However, five months after the raid, Reade's husband sold his private prison stock for between $65,000 to $150,000.
"A reasonable person might question whether or not the judge's husband was essentially trying to benefit the judge and himself financially by virtue of knowledge the judge acquired in her judicial administrative position," said Richard Flamm, a California based ethical expert who wrote a book on judicial disqualification. "I don't think a judge who handles criminal cases should ever be buying and selling stocks in private prisons, and of course, if her spouse does it, it's functionally the same thing."
The private prison investments came to light when an independent investigator was invited by Deputy Attorney General Philip Heymann to look into the legal case of Sholom Rubashkin, the meat packing plant's owner. Immigration charges were dropped against Rubashkin, but following a 2010 trial, he was convicted of financial fraud and sentenced by Reade to 27 years in prison. Heymann is one of more than 100 former Justice Department officials, including two former attorney generals, four former deputy attorney generals, and two former FBI directors, who called for Rubashkin's release.
If the Eighth Circuit allows it, Rubashkin's lawyers hope to raise the stock issue to support their argument that Reade should have recused herself from the case.
Sources: Mother Jones; rawstory.com
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