Massachusetts judge charged with obstructing justice for helping twice-deported illegal immigrant avoid ICE

Massachusetts judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and her court officer Wesley MacGregor are being charged with obstruction of justice for allowing an illegal immigrant, Jose Medina-Perez, to exit through a back door knowing an ICE agent was waiting outside to arrest him. From the Boston Herald:

“I’m not gonna allow them to come in here,” the judge is alleged to have told the man’s defense attorney. She was basically keeping an ICE officer on the outside of the courtroom…

MacGregor, the court officer that day in the Newton court, allowed the suspect to bolt out a back door, the feds state.

That description is a bit more passive than what actually happened. WCVB 5 reports Judge Joseph didn’t just allow Medina-Perez to run off, she came up with a plan to facilitate his escape with his defense attorney:

ICE issued an order for a federal immigration detainer and sent an officer to the courthouse.

In the courtroom, Joseph ordered the courtroom recording device to be turned off in order to conceal the conversation about the plan, the indictment said.

According to the indictment filed by United States Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office, MacGregor agreed with the immigrant’s defense attorney to release the immigrant through a rear door in order to evade the federal officers. Joseph participated by creating a pretext for the immigrant to be brought downstairs for “further interview” so he could be released through that door, the indictment said.

Newtown, Massachusetts, where this took place is a sanctuary city. Heavy reports that means police are not required to help federal agents arrest someone. However, authorities aren’t allowed under state law to interfere in an arrest by those same authorities. So the issue here is that by going off the record and concocting a plan to get Medina-Perez out the back door, knowing there was an ICE agent waiting outside to make an arrest, the judge and her clerk were actively interfering. That seems clear enough to me but I have no doubt many people will see it differently, especially given the politics surrounding this issue.

On that note, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling has released a statement saying this is not a case about immigration but about the rule of law:

“Are judges special? Sure,” Lelling said. “But not because of privileges they enjoy. They’re special because they’re entrusted with enormous power.” He said “this case is not about immigration.”…

In a statement, Lelling said, ““This case is about the rule of law. 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. We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow, or use our personal views to justify violating the law.”

Lelling’s words were echoed by Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in Boston. “Judge Joseph’s courtroom does not belong to her,” Fitzhugh said. “It belongs to the people.”

Both Joseph and MacGregor will appear in court later today.

Finally, here’s Laura Ingraham discussing this case four months ago when it was first reported. This clip includes audio from the courtroom which was first reported by the Boston Globe: