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WATERLOO --- Considering the evidence in the state's child labor case against Sholom Rubashkin was no small task, according to the Waterloo City Council member who served as the jury's foreman.

"It's kind of tough to call because you want to make the right decision. But what we had to go on was the testimony, the materials given within the court case," said Quentin Hart said.

Rubashkin was charged with 67 counts of child labor violations in connection with underage workers at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant.

Monday afternoon jurors acquitted him of all counts.

Jurors deliberated Friday and returned Monday morning. After ordering in lunch and taking a short break, they announced they had reached a decision at about 12:50 p.m.

In explaining the verdict, Hart noted that all 26 former underage workers who testified said they had submitted false paperwork that made it appear they were over age 18 when they applied. He also noted that company officials had fired underage workers it found in 2007.

"There never was any clear line of communication between Sholom about him knowing that the 26 on there were underage. That was a little challenging," Hart said.

He said the case showed a need to focus on immigration.

"We as a community, a state, a country need to take a look into those situations, because you have young people, older people in there seeking a better opportunity and having to hide who they are to maintain some type of citizenship," Hart said.

Deputy Attorney General Thomas H. Miller said it was a complicated case, but prosecuting it sent the message that child labor violations won't be tolerated.

"We're disappointed of course. We felt this was a fight that needed to be fought," Miller said.

Defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown called the jury "courageous" and said the verdict was an unprecedented upset writes "a wonderful new story for Sholom and his family. ... And that story is his being vindicated as a human being that did not want minors working in his father's plant."

EARLIER STORY:

WATERLOO --- Former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin has been acquitted of allowing minors to work at the Postville slaughterhouse.

The jury indicated they had reached a verdict shortly before 1 p.m. Monday.

Jurors acquitted him of all 67 counts of child labor violations.

Rubashkin is awaiting sentencing on federal bank fraud charges in connection with loans Agriprocessors received. Federal immigration charges stemming from the May 2008 raid at the plant were dropped earlier.

State labor officials began investigating information that minors worked at the plant in the months before the May 2008 immigration raid.

Prosecutors said Rubashkin, who was described at the CEO and co-vice president of the company, knew underage workers held jobs at the facility and did nothing to remove them or change hiring practices.

Twenty-six former Agriprocessors employees from Guatemala and Mexico testified they had worked at the plant as teenagers. The state said they worked with dangerous chemicals and some tended power-driven equipment like conveyor belts.

 

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