Sholom Rubashkin, a prominent ultra-Orthodox Jewish businessman, has been aquitted of knowingly employing minors in his family’s now-defunct Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa.

These were state misdemeanor charges, dwarfed by the possibility of a 25-year prison term for Rubashkin’s federal fraud conviction; that sentencing is scheduled for June 22. Nevertheless, this has significantly boosted the morale of Rubashkin’s supporters, who are using the verdict — along with the government’s decision to drop the immigrant-hiring charges last year, after securing the fraud conviction — as proof that Agriprocessors did not knowingly employ or mistreat illegal/underage workers…  and perhaps the fraud conviction is not so ironclad, after all? (An appeal is underway.)

Some quotes from the statement released by Rubashkin’s defense team yesterday:

“On behalf of my family and Sholom’s supporters around the world, we are deeply grateful to the Iowastate jury for their verdict,” said Leah Rubashkin, Sholom’s wife. “We have maintained from the very beginning that Sholom is innocent, and are heartened that the jury unanimously agreed.”

“This is a vindication by a courageous jury that Sholom is not the kind of man that would want minors working his father’s plant,” said F. Montgomery Brown, a member of the Rubashkin defense team.

“Sholom Rubashkin was irrefutably harmed during the federal trial by being falsely portrayed asresponsible for the employment of illegal workers,” said Guy Cook, a member of the Rubashkin defense team. “We believe this had a profound impact on the jury, and tainted the federal trial. If the federal jury had been permitted to hear both sides of the issue, they would probably have found that Sholom Rubashkin was not responsible for the employment of illegal workers.”

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