A prosecutor’s job is to do justice, not merely to convict.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Flores-Figueroa v. United States raises serious questions about whether Stephanie Rose, who has been nominated to be U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, is the right choice for the job. http://tinyurl.com/c8k83c.
Rose was among the key assistant U.S. Attorneys who drove the mass prosecutions of nearly 300 undocumented immigrant workers arrested at the Agriprocessors meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa last year. There the government brazenly used the federal identity theft law as a hammer to coerce the workers into pleading guilty to social security fraud, despite questionable evidence, and accepting automatic deportation.
At a minimum Rose needs to fully explain her role in the Postville prosecutions, including,
• The May 12, 2008 press release from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa announcing the temporary assignment of federal judges and court personnel to Waterloo, Iowa “in response to the … prosecution of numerous illegal aliens…” The press release was issued by the court before any of those arrested and charged had been found to be in the country illegally.
• The infamous “Defense Manual” that was, in reality, a guide to the conviction and deportation of the defendants.
• The use of the so-called “Fast Tracking” system, concocted by the government, which amounted to little more than a conviction/deportation assembly line that compromised the fundamental rights of the defendants in favor of expedited proceedings.
• The inadequate provision of CJA defense counsel to the immigrant workers, including mass hearings at which defense counsel were called upon to represent as many as 17 defendants at a time in a single, brief, proceeding, with some called on to do so on multiple occasions for multiple groups of defendants.
• The denial of access to immigration counsel for lengthy periods of time during “processing” and questioning.
• The lack of any assurance that each individual charged was afforded meaningful access to counsel familiar with both criminal and immigration law.
• The required use of an “exploding” plea agreement which contained an arbitrary 7 day expiration period without sufficient time given to the defendants to assess the case facts and forms of relief under the immigration law.
• The inappropriate, and arguably unlawful, use of “judicial removal” which lead to the automatic deportation of many defendants, despite close family ties to the U.S.
Did Rose at least raise her voice privately in opposition to the government’s use of coercive prosecutorial tactics against the undocumented immigrants, most of whom were uneducated Guatemalan farmers?
If not, why not?
Curiously, a statement released by Senator Harkin in support of Rose takes care to distance her from any discretionary role in the Postville prosecutions. But the argument that Rose “was only following orders” flatly contradicts the testimony of former Senior Associate Deputy Attorney General Deborah Rhodes who told the House Immigration Subcommittee last summer that the Postville prosecutions were planned by the local federal authorities. At the time, Rose was the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa and, reportedly, third in the office chain of command.
Did Rose really have no clue that the Postville prosecutions were being planned by her colleagues? Did she really have no prior knowledge of the ICE Postville investigation or that criminal complaints and criminal arrest warrants for 697 Postville workers were being prepared and sought by her office in early April 2008? And, in light of this week’s unanimous Supreme Court decision, which concludes that the government’s interpretation of the federal identity theft statute was overreaching and implausible, does she still think use of the law as a hammer to obtain guilty pleas from the Postville defendants was appropriate?
As U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose will serve as the chief law enforcement officer in the Northern District of Iowa and will be responsible for coordinating many investigations and prosecutions. Before she is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she must be called upon to give a full accounting of her role in the Postville prosecutions.
Rose needs to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The public is entitled to nothing less.