Stephanie Rose, now the United States attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, has been nominated to be the next federal judge in the Southern District of Iowa.
Federal judge nominee Stephanie Rose stressed today that she wasn’t the lead decision-maker in the Postville raid case, an unprecedented and controversial mass prosecution that has never been repeated.
Rose said she was the deputy criminal chief in the prosecutor’s office, but there were others above her in the chain of command, including Matt Dummermuth, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa at the time.
Rose, 39, is currently under consideration to be the next federal judge in the Southern District of Iowa – a lifetime position.
During a hearing on her nomination today, Rose said she wanted to clarify that she was simply a liaison between the prosecutor’s office and the defense attorneys, court clerks, federal agents and others tied to the prosecution of about 300 illegal immigrant meatpacking plant workers in 2008.
“My role was really as a key problem solver,” she told four senators on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. on today.
Many of the Agriprocessors workers were charged with identity theft, a heavy-duty felony. Critics have blasted the way the defendants were sent assembly-line style through the court system, in such a rapid fashion that the workers had little chance to consider their options.
Within 10 days of the arrests, the judge had taken plea deals for 297 people. Eventually, 306 pleaded guilty. Most ended up with charges of using false immigration documents to obtain work, and were sentenced to five months in prison.
“All 306 who we charged during those days did plead guilty. There was not a single trial held,” Rose said.
There has never been a case where so many workers from a workplace raid were prosecuted en masse – and the justice department has not repeated it since.
Asked what involvement Rose had with the planning of the raid, or with the plea agreements, Rose answered: “None.”
“There was a matrix set up as part of the fast-track-approved plea agreement where if certain facts were present, the plea offer would be X,” Rose testified today. “If a different set of facts were present, the plea offer would be Y. There was very little, in fact no that I’m aware of, movement off what had been pre-approved.”
Rose said the major decisions about charges and the provisions of the plea agreements were made by her superiors, with approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking member on the judiciary committee, said he wasn’t trying to play gotcha, but asked her 10 questions about the case.
Asked about the defendants’ accommodations during the fast-track prosecution, Rose said they were “everything you would and should expect.”
“I have every reason to believe they were treated well throughout the entire time they were in our custody,” Rose said. “Every person I saw had a cot, they had a blanket, they had clean clothing, they had meals catered by Hy-Vee. They had televisions, they had games. I never saw them playing the games, but they were sitting there.”
President Barack Obama nominated Rose last month. Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa is also solidly behind her.
She would replace U.S. District Chief Judge Robert Pratt, who retires July 1.
If confirmed, she would be the first female U.S. district judge in Iowa’s Southern District, which is based in Des Moines.
Next, she will need to answer questions to answer from the senators who weren’t able to make the hearing today. If she clears the committee, her nomination goes to the full Senate for a vote.