Judge Who Allegedly Helped Illegal Alien Evade ICE Pleads Not Guilty

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
April 26, 2019US News
Judge Who Allegedly Helped Illegal Alien Evade ICE Pleads Not Guilty
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents seek to arrest immigration fugitives, re-entrants, and at-large criminal aliens during an operation in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 9, 2017. (Bryan Cox/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via Getty Images)

The judge who allegedly helped an illegal alien evade detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made her first court appearance and pleaded not guilty.

Newtown District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph, 51, was arraigned on an obstruction of justice charge and other charges on April 25 at the federal courthouse in Boston.

Wesley MacGregor, 56, a trial court officer also accused of assisting the alien, was arraigned on Thursday, too. They both pleaded not guilty and were released without having to post any bond, reported WCVB.

Joseph appeared to be struggling to hold back tears as she left the courthouse.

Joseph’s lawyer Thomas Hoopes said that she is “absolutely innocent,” reported The Associated Press. Hoopes told reporters that the prosecution of his client “is absolutely political.”

According to indictments filed on Thursday by the Department of Justice, the Newton Police Department on March 30, 2018, arrested and charged an alien defendant with being a fugitive from justice and possessing drugs.

An investigation revealed that the defendant had been deported twice from the United States, in 2003 and 2007. A federal order prohibited the defendant, identified in reports as Jose Medina-Perez, 38, from the Dominican Republic, from re-entering the United States until 2027.

After Medina-Perez’s illegal status was revealed, ICE issued a federal immigration detainer and a warrant of removal, meaning the federal authorities would take custody of the defendant if he was going to be released on bond or after being found not guilty or after being found guilty and serving a sentence.

On April 2, police transferred custody to the Newtown District Court, where MacGregor and Joseph were present. MacGregor, the trial court officer that day, was sent the detainer and warrant.

That morning, a plainclothes ICE officer was dispatched to the courthouse to take custody of Medina-Perez after the defendant’s release. The officer alerted MacGregor of his presence. Prior to Medina-Perez appearing in court in the afternoon, the courtroom clerk, at Joseph’s direction, allegedly told the officer to wait outside the courtroom in the lobby and said that the defendant, if released, would be sent to the lobby. The case started at 2:48 p.m.

“The audio recording captured Joseph, the defense attorney, and the [assistant district attorney] speaking at sidebar about the defendant and the ICE detainer. Joseph then allegedly ordered the courtroom clerk to ‘go off the record for a moment.’ For the next 52 seconds, the courtroom audio recorder was turned off, in violation of the District Court rules,” the department stated.

“At 2:51 p.m., the recorder was turned back on, and Joseph indicated her intent to release the defendant. According to the charging documents, the defense attorney asked to speak with the defendant downstairs and Joseph responded, ‘That’s fine. Of course.’ When reminded by the clerk that an ICE Officer was in the courthouse, Joseph stated, ‘That’s fine. I’m not gonna allow them to come in here. But he’s been released on this.’ Immediately following the proceeding, MacGregor allegedly escorted the defendant, his attorney, and an interpreter downstairs to the lockup and used his security access card to open the rear sally-port exit and release the defendant at 3:01 p.m.”

MacGregor was also charged with perjury for falsely testifying before a federal grand jury on July 12 that he didn’t know ICE agents were at the courthouse or that there was a detainer for the defendant.

Joseph faces up to 30 years in prison, up to 11 years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. MacGregor faces up to 35 years in prison, up to 14 years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $500,000.

“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,” United States Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

“Everyone in the justice system—not just judges, but law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defense counsel—should be held to a higher standard. The people of Massachusetts expect that just like they expect judges to be fair, impartial and to follow the law themselves.”

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