WATERLOO — Jurors in Sholom Rubashkin’s child labor trial are expected to begin deliberations Friday morning.
In an unusual move, Judge Nathan Callahan decided to allow one alternate to accompany the panel into deliberations because of the possibility of illness.
Both the prosecution and the defense agreed to the arrangement after a juror’s apparent sickness caused two breaks in the state’s rebuttal argument.
At the end of the day, the juror indicated he was OK to continue, but the court decided to include the alternate as a safeguard.
Juries for simple misdemeanors usually number six panelists. This case started with two alternates, and one was excused in the first week after she was arrested.
Seven — six jurors and the remaining alternate — sat through closing arguments Thursday.
Under the arrangement, all seven jurors will decide the case. If there is an illness or if one of the panelists has to be excused for another reason, they can downgrade to a jury of six.
A unanimous verdict — with all remaining jurors voting the same — will be needed in either case, according to Callahan.
The judge also said Rubashkin will remain in the Black Hawk County Jail in Waterloo while jurors are in deliberation. He had been staying in the Linn County Jail in Cedar Rapids for the night and commuting to Waterloo for trial.
Callahan said since Rubashkin would be needed to attend court in the event of a jury question, he had to remain close by.
WATERLOO — Attorneys for former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin said he didn’t want minors working in the Postville kosher meatpacking plant.
The defense gave its closing arguments this morning, splitting the task between attorneys F. Montgomery Brown and Mark Weinhardt.
Rubashkin is charged with 67 counts of child labor violations stemming from 26 underage workers who held jobs at the plant. He also is awaiting sentencing on federal fraud convictions connected to bank loans the company received.
“Our defense is complete, total, wall-to-wall Mr. Rubashkin didn’t permit the employment of minors at the plant,” Weinhardt told jurors during the defense’s three-hour presentation.
“Mr. Rubashkin didn’t hire anybody. His mistake was trusting his HR (human resources) department,” Weinhardt said.
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 that there were underage workers before an investigation started in 2008.
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.
He 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.
Brown said there was no evidence that Rubashkin saw the workers’ faces and said he was also busy with business travel to California, Florida, Nebraska and New York.
“He didn’t have enough time to do all of the stuff the state said he did,” Brown said.
Brown said Agriprocessors became a big fish in the small community of Postville, and Rubashkin became the face of the company. When problems developed, the state rushed to the conclusion he was responsible and harpooned him like a white whale, “Moby Jew,” Brown called him.
After a lunch break, the state will give rebuttal arguments.