For allegedly helping an illegal immigrant evade immigration officials, a Massachusetts judge was indicted on obstruction of justice charges.
Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and trial court officer Wesley MacGregor were both accused of working to stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from taking an undocumented immigrant into custody at Newton District Court on April 2, 2018.
According to the indictment, Joseph supposedly had the courtroom recording device switched off for 52 seconds while she and defendant Jose Medina-Perez’s lawyer talked about how to get him out of the courthouse rather than hand him over to an ICE officer. MacGregor then allegedly used his access badge to let Medina-Perez go via a back door.
After the indictment at a federal court in Boston on Thursday, Joseph could be seen crying as she left.
Joseph’s attorney Tom Hoopes said outside the court: “This prosecution is absolutely political, Shelley Joseph is absolutely innocent.”
In the meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union also slammed the indictment, calling it the result of President Donald Trump’s “anti-immigrant agenda.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey called the prosecution a “radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.”
Medina-Perez had been deported twice before and was arrested four days earlier for drug possession as well as being a fugitive from justice in Pennsylvania. Medina-Perez is still at large.
ICE was alerted of his arrest after his fingerprints were processed and an order was issued for a federal immigration detainer.
Joseph intervened by creating a pretext for the defendant to be brought downstairs for “further interview” but was simply a cover for him to be released through that door, the indictment continued.
The charges against Joseph and MacGregor were announced by Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling on Thursday.
“The allegations in today’s indictment involve obstruction by a sitting judge, that is intentional interference with the enforcement of federal law, and that is a crime,” Lelling said.
“We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow or use our personal views to justify violating the law.”
The charges Joseph and MacGregor face are obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and obstruction of a federal proceeding.
MacGregor was also charged with perjury on account of the suspected false testimony he gave a federal grand jury that was reviewing the case.
Todd M. Lyons, acting field office director of ICE’s enforcement and removal operations in Boston, said in a statement: “The actions of the judge in this incident are a detriment to the rule of law and highly offensive to the law enforcement officers of ICE who swear an oath to uphold our nation’s immigration laws.
“In order for our criminal justice system to work fairly for all people, it must be protected against judicial officials who would seek to replace the implementation of our laws with their own ideological views or politically-driven agenda. I would also like to thank U.S. Attorney Lelling for his local leadership and his continuous and faithful support of the ERO law enforcement mission.”