Des Moines, IA – In a stunning development, an independent investigation revealed that the husband of the Iowa judge who slapped Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin with an unusually lengthy prison sentence may have profited personally from the federal raid at the Agriprocessors processing plant in May 2008.
The investigation was initiated at the request of former Deputy Attorney General Philip Heyman and revealed that Michael Figenshaw, the husband of Judge Linda Reade, owned stock in two private prison companies, adding additional stock in the companies to his investment portfolio just five days before the raid, reported Mother Jones (http://bit.ly/2ivnOOQ).
Heyman is one of more than 100 prominent names in the legal world that have called for Rubashkin’s release as previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2gwMZuo).
Close to 400 undocumented immigrant workers were arrested in the raid and taken to a local fairgrounds where they were held in a nearby gym until they could be tried in makeshift courtrooms by a group of federal judges which included Judge Reade.
While illegal immigrants captured in a raid are typically deported to their countries of origin, approximately 270 of those captures in the Agriprocessors raid were sentenced to five months in prison after being charged with criminal fraud.
The hearings took place in trailers and a dance hall set up at the fairgrounds over a period of nine business days and one interpreter who participated in the hearings said that most of those captured in the raid spoke only Spanish and were persuaded to plead guilty.
At the time, California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren likened the proceedings to “a cattle auction, not a criminal prosecution in the United States of America.”
According to Reade’s financial disclosure forms, Figenshaw bought $30,000 to $100,000 worth of prison stock just before the raid, selling it five months later when its value had risen to $65,000 to $150,000.
The prison shares were the only stock purchased by Reade or her husband in May 2008, although Figenshaw later made additional investments in private prisons.
By the time Figenshaw divested himself of all of his prison shares, Judge Reade had ruled on more than 100 cases of illegal immigrants in addition to those captured in the Agriprocessors raid.
Ruling on any case could potentially profit her husband should have posed a conflict of interest for Reade according to Professor Charles Gardner Geyh of the Indiant University Maurer School of Law.
“I am uneasy about the perception problem created when a judge may be financially bested in more people going to prison when she has defendants coming before her for sentencing every week,” said Gardner Geyh.
In fact, Reade’s involvement may have violated the Code of Conduct for United States Judges and Heyman expressed his own concerns about Reade’s rulings, saying “A judge is supposed to have no financial incentives that could affect or might appear to affect her actions in any substantial way.”
In is unclear at this time where defendants who were sentenced by Reade to jail served their time.
Having learned of Figenshaw’s investments, Rubashkin’s lawyers are hoping to bring these latest developments back to the court in an attempt to free their client who has more than twenty years left on his federal sentence.
“I don’t think a judge who handles criminal cases should ever be buying and selling stocks in private prisons,” noted ethics expert Richard Flamm. “And of course, if her spouse does, it is essentially the same thing.”