On April 25, 2019, the United State Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts announced charges against a local judge and a court officer for helping an alien who was in the United States illegally escape the court building without being apprehended by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph, a state judge in Newton, Massachusetts, was charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, aiding and abetting, and obstruction of a federal proceeding. Wesley MacGregor, a former court officer, was charged with those same three counts in addition to perjury. Both defendants pled not guilty to all of the charges.
Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reported on the details of the indictment [link
Judge Joseph had been presiding over judicial proceedings involving Jose Medina Perez, an alien who was in the United States illegally and who was appearing in court a few days after being arrested on criminal drug charges. Perez had been removed from the United States twice before, in 2003 and 2007. ICE issued a detainer request and warrant of removal and an ICE officer appeared at the proceeding to arrest Perez in the event that he was released from criminal custody.
According to the indictment, Judge Joseph ordered the ICE officer from the court room while telling him to wait in the lobby, where Perez would ostensibly be released in the event that he was not held on the state charges. The indictment then details that Judge Joseph being was recorded by the court's recording system discussing how to keep Perez from being arrested by the ICE officer — before turning off the recording system for a period of 52 seconds. After the lapse in the recording, Judge Joseph ordered Perez released and reassured her clerk that she would not allow ICE into the courtroom to take custody of Perez. The indictment then alleges that MacGregor, who was the courtroom officer for Judge Joseph on that day, used his keycard to allow Perez to exit the building through a rear entrance, thereby avoiding detection by the ICE officer who had been told to wait in the lobby. MacGregor's perjury charge stems from allegations that he lied to a grand jury, claiming that he did not know that an ICE officer was there and denying that he knew of an outstanding ICE detainer request for Perez.
The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts stated: “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.” However, Dinan quoted the state Attorney General for Massachusetts criticizing the decision as “a radical and politically motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.”
The case is likely to be publicized due to the debate about ICE enforcement activities in local courts. In a separate article, we discuss ICE's policy on enforcement actions inside federal, state, and local courtrooms [see article
]. The instant charges are unusual in that local authorities are being charged with actually obstructing ICE enforcement activities and abetting an alien in evading arrest. We will update the site with more information on the case once it is resolved.
Any alien who is arrested and charged with inadmissibility or removability should consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately, regardless of the place and manner of the immigration arrest.
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1. Dinan, Stephen. “Sanctuary court: Massachusetts judge charged with obstruction after helping illegal escape ICE.” The Washington Times. Apr. 25, 2019. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/apr/25/massachusetts-judge-charged-obstruction-after-help/