Judge who helped illegal alien escape turns down plea deal

When last we checked in on suspended Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph, she was in considerable hot water. Having allegedly conspired with as many as five people to orchestrate the escape of a criminal illegal alien from her courtroom, she was arrested and prosecutors didn’t seem to be in the mood to let her off lightly. The charges she’s facing could carry decades of jail time, not to mention the end of her judicial career.

But with a bit more time to think about it, the US Attorney handling the case appeared to have a change of heart. He decided to offer Joseph a deal in which she could avoid criminal prosecution if she admitted her behavior was improper and managed to not get into any more trouble for a year. A pretty sweet deal, eh? Apparently not in the judge’s opinion. She turned it down flat. (Boston Globe)

Suspended Newton Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph turned down a deal that would have allowed her to avoid prosecution — and possibly preserve her career — if she admitted that she illegally helped an undocumented immigrant elude arrest by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, according to several people briefed on the federal prosecutor’s offer.

US Attorney Andrew Lelling had offered Joseph a “deferred prosecution agreement” under which she would not have been indicted and, in a year, as long as she didn’t repeat the conduct, prosecutors would abandon the obstruction of justice charges, according to the people familiar with the deal.

But Joseph refused to admit she violated federal law and now faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison if convicted of obstruction of justice.

At first glance, it seemed to me that the judge was perhaps hoping to make some sort of principled stand and hope for the best at trial. The only statement from her attorneys was that Joseph had “pleaded not guilty because she is not guilty.” But as a number of observers from the legal community have pointed out, there’s probably more to it than that. If she had taken the deal, she still would have had to make a public statement essentially admitting to having committed a felony. That would likely lead to her permanent removal from the bench either through impeachment or review by the Commission on Judicial Conduct.

With that in mind, perhaps Joseph feels that she can carry the day in front of a jury, despite the mountain of evidence and testimony indicating that she did precisely what she’s accused of doing. But is keeping her job as a judge worth the risk? If this goes against her she’s looking at up to 20 years in prison (though I highly doubt she would receive the maximum sentence) and the complete obliteration of her career.

And it’s not as if she’s short of other options. Shelley Joseph has become an overnight darling of the liberal left for helping a criminal illegal alien escape the clutches of ICE. She would almost certainly be offered some sort of university teaching position, book deals or a spot in a liberal think tank. Heck, for that matter, she could just learn to code. Most of those options would offer her a platform to pontificate and possibly even run for office. (I don’t think the Democrats will hold a couple of felonies against her if it was done for the good of The Resistance.)

But if she wants to go to the mat with the US Attorney after he offered her such a generous deal, I suppose that’s up to her. She might want to take up crochet or some other easily portable hobby, though. I hear things get boring in a prison cell after a while.