“ICE is gonna get him?”
A Massachusetts judge was indicted Thursday for allegedly smuggling and immigrant out the back of her courthouse to avoid deportation.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston charged District Court Judge Shelley Joseph with three counts of obstruction of justice, along with Trial Court Office Wesley MacGregor who allegedly participated in the caper.
On April 2, 2018, Jose Medina-Perez, was facing deportation for a second time following a recent arrest on drug charges in Massachusetts and an outstanding warrant for drunk driving in Pennsylvania. A U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agent was waiting for his arraignment at the state courthouse in Newton to detain him.
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However, federal prosecutors alleged that Joseph ordered that the agent leave the courtroom and the courtroom recorder be turned off while she plotted with Medina-Perez’s lawyer and an assistant district attorney.
“ICE is gonna get him?” she said, according to a transcript of the recorded portion of the conversation.
Joseph then ordered Medina-Perez released without bail and instructed MacGregor to accompany him to the downstairs lockup, prosecutors said. MacGregor then allegedly allowed Medina-Perez to exit through a back door.
It was not clear what happened to Medina-Perez, who was in the country illegally, after the courthouse escape.
Joseph, who was still hearing cases up until this week, has been suspended without pay, according to a judicial order obtained by NBC Boston.
In addition to obstruction of justice, MacGregor was charged with perjury for allegedly falsely telling a federal grand jury that he had not known there was an ICE detainer for Medina-Perez.
“This case is about the rule of law,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
“We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow, or use our personal views to justify violating the law. Everyone in the justice system — not just judges, but law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defense counsel — should be held to a higher standard.”
The indictments came at a time when Americans are polarized on the issue of immigration. Critics of President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies have taken to bashing immigration authorities, sometimes inaccurately, with prominent Democrats in Congress calling for ICE to be abolished.
Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters and other immigration restrictionists have accused liberals of effectively supporting open borders and railed against “sanctuary cities” like Newton for dangerously flouting legal norms. Trump recently said he would unload undocumented immigrants on such municipalities.
After the ACLU of Massachusetts released a statement Thursday slamming the decision to prosecute the judge and court officer.
“The Department of Justice’s decision to bring this case is preposterous, ironic, and deeply damaging to the rule of law,” said executive director Carol Rose.
“This decision seems to have little to do with the actual facts, and everything to do with enforcing the president’s anti-immigrant agenda. This prosecution is nothing less than an assault on justice in Massachusetts courts, and it will further undermine community trust and safety.”
But Todd Lyons, acting field director of enforcement and removal operations for ICE in Boston, said Joseph had disrespected his officers.
“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.”
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