In just 18 minutes, officers of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Midamar Corporation and the related Islamic Services of America were arraigned on federal felony charges, pleaded not guilty to all charges, adopted the court setting a trial date of Feb. 17, 2015, and were freed under minimal conditions.
Both defendants, sons of the previously charged William B. Aossey Jr., also corrected their names for the court. Jalel Aossey said his full name is Jalel Farris Aossey and William Aossey said his correct name is Yahya Nasser Aossey.
Any federal defendant freed until trial agrees not to violate any federal, state, or local law while on release and to submit a DNA sample. Defendants also agree to keep the court advised of their current address, appear in court as necessary, and surrender for sentencing if it comes to that.
The Aossey brothers were released with only two additional conditions. They must give probation officers 48 hours advance notice before they embark on international travel, and they agreed not to associate with anyone convicted of a felony.
Other than that, both are free without bond, as is their father.
Also during the speedy arraignment proceedings on Monday, the chief federal magistrate judge for Northern Iowa signed the court’s standard 16-page trial scheduling order for each defendant. It sets a Jan. 21, 2015, status hearing for a trial that might start on Feb. 17, 2015.
Linda R. Reade, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa, will preside over the trial. The order notes the court has several trials scheduled for the same period and has not determined the order in which they will be tried. This is also a standard court procedure as cases often settle immediately before trial and judges use such scheduling practices to ensure they are not left with nothing to do.
The rest of the standard order deals with discovery, jury selection, and trial witnesses.
The five scheduling orders signed Monday, including one for ISA Inc., which is another name for Islamic Services of America, mean those trials might occur before 73-year-old William B. Aossey Jr. faces a jury on March 9, 2015.
The senior Aossey was previously arraigned last October. His federal trial was postponed from an original trial date of Dec. 29, 2014, after the federal magistrate declared the cases “complex” and said he needed additional time for preparation.
While the charges against the Aosseys and their companies are not strictly food-safety related, they do involve mislabeling and violations of statutes that are usually seen as essential to food-safety enforcement.
Letter from Midamar regarding Indictment:
December 18, 2014
Dear Midamar Halal Customers:
It has come to our attention that some news agencies are publishing half-truths and misleading information concerning Midamar. We at Midamar appreciate the loyalty and support of all of our customers, suppliers and stakeholders.
The reports claim that the government is alleging that Midamar sold millions of dollars in meat that did not follow Halal practices as promised in its labeling and advertising to countries outside the USA. Midamar is a Halal food company in its essence and practice. Midamar does not accept these allegations and is now seeking to understand what the government is basing these allegations on.
In 2010, there was a USDA administrative infraction regarding facility numbers that were incorrect. This was never a Halal issue. The product exported was Halal. It was an exporting issue involving facility numbers. Since 2010 Midamar has been fully compliant with USDA export regulations. This administrative labeling infraction is being misconstrued and sensationalized by the media as a deliberate attempt by the company to commit Halal fraud.
Midamar beef slaughter takes place in Muslim and Jewish religious ritual slaughter facilities. Some of the news reports claim that Midamar participates in ‘captive bolt stunning’ where the cattle is rendered ‘senseless and dead’ prior to slaughtering. Nothing could be farther from the truth in this matter. In some ritual religious slaughter plants, it is common practice to stun the cattle immediately after the cattle has been hand cut. This is the form of stunning which took place at the Minnesota plant and this plant was visited by Halal verifying authorities and customers with full knowledge of this slaughter method.
Midamar is faced with dealing with a government that does not fully understand the complexities and global sensitivities of the Halal market. The company is also faced with media that is quick to sensationalize these allegations at best and is often ignorant and hostile towards Halal producers and consumers. Most importantly, the company is getting inquiries and comments from Halal consumers that are understandably concerned that Midamar may be selling them meat that is not Halal. We ask that our customers reserve judgment until the company is able to develop a defense to these allegations.
We assure you that we are working tirelessly to ensure that we investigate and understand these allegations and what these allegations are based on. We are one of a handful of Muslim owned Halal food companies in the USA that export abroad. Halal is the identity of the Midamar brand. It would be counterproductive and immoral on our part to knowingly sell Halal meat that is not Halal.
Like the mainstream media in the USA, the government does not know or understand what Halal is. For the sake of the ritual slaughter industry as a whole we are citing the first amendment of the constitution which guarantees the separation of church and state. For the future of the Halal and Kosher industries in America and for the protection and benefit of consumers, the government must abide by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.”
We will provide you with more information once we have a chance to understand and respond to these allegations.
Director of Marketing and Communications