Rubashkin Defense Reveals ‘Amnesia’ of Labor Witnessess

Excerpts from the Des Moines Register: After court adjourned for the day yesterday in the Rubashkin labor trial and the jury left the courtroom, defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown asked the prosecuti to turn over all evidence – if it hasn’t already – related to interviews of witnesses by government agents after the immigration raid.

When presented with a written record on cross-examination, most of the witnesses have said they don’t remember any specifics about the interviews. Others said they don’t remember doing any interviews.

“We’re confronted with a road block of amnesia regarding the existence of these interviews,” Brown said.

Black Hawk County District Associate Judge Nathan Callahan said he has no reason to believe the prosecution has withheld any exculpatory evidence (information that will help with Rubashkin’s defense.)

However, he said the defense has successfully attacked the credibility of some of the witnesses, in his opinion.

“When someone gets on the stand and says I don’t remember giving any interviews with anyone ever, obviously there’s some credibility issues,” he said.

State witness Noe Castillo Ordonez appeared to not know how old he was when a state prosecutor asked his age.

Ordonez always stated the same birthday in December 1990, but told the prosecutor he’s 20 years old, because “I’m starting my 20th year” in 2010.

On a later question he said he turned 18 in 2007, before correcting himself.

“I want to make sure I understand accurately, because I’m confused now. Do you know for a fact what your date of birth is?” said Deputy Iowa Attorney General Thomas H. Miller.

“It’s the 16th of Decemeber, 1990,” he said through an interpreter.

Miller asked him how long he went to school, and if he learned his “addition and subtraction.”

Ordonez said he did, and attended school for five years in Guatemala.

Rubashkin’s attorneys have been suggesting all week that the state’s witnesses don’t know their true ages because they gave so many different birth dates to government officials after the raid.

Ordonez also said he was not hired the first time he applied, because he looked too young. The defense has also been arguing all week that it’s hard for non-Guatemalans to tell the age of young people from that country.

The witnesses have all said they lied about their age out of fear.

Ordonez said he lied because he feared he might spend more time in prison as a minor. However, federal agents did not believe he was over 18, and separated him from the adult detainees, he said.

Ordonez was the first witness all week that has had trouble lining up his stated birthday with his current age.

Candido Alfredo Marroquin Argueta said he had been hanging chickens at Agriprocessors for three months when the kosher slaughterhouse finally asked him for identification.

Marroquin Argueta started working at the plant in Postville in 2007, when he was 17. On cross-examination, defense attorney Mark Weinhardt noted he was only 6 weeks short of his 18th birthday at the time of the raid.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Sloan asked Marroquin Argueta to stand up while she showed a picture of him on the day of the raid to the jury.

He was noticeably thinner. She asked if he had lost weight.

“In Guatemala, there’s not enough work or money to buy food that you need,” he said.