A federal judge this week rejected attempts by Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph to avoid going to trial helping an illegal immigrant defendant evade Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. In denying her motion to have charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy dismissed, U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin on Monday effectively cleared the path toward a trial for the presently-suspended judge and trial court officer Wesley MacGregor.
Judge Sorokin, an Obama appointee, did not rule on the “judicial immunity” claim Joseph has made because, he stated, “it is not within this Court’s province on a motion to dismiss to determine whether judicial immunity, even if its reach encompasses criminal liability, provides a viable shelter for Joseph in the circumstances alleged here.”
As a reminder, the actions that are more than likely leading Joseph to the inside of a trial courtroom were triggered by the arrest on March 30, 2018, of Jose Medina-Perez by Newton, Mass., police for drug possession. The Dominican national also was arrested because he was a fugitive from justice in Pennsylvania and had been previously deported in 2003 and 2007, and was the subject of a final order of removal.
Those factors led to ICE lodging a detainer for Medina-Perez with the Newton Police several days later. On April 12, 2018, Newton Police sent him (and the ICE detainer and warrant) to Newton District Court and, more importantly, to the courtroom of Judge Joseph, which is where an unusual and outrageous series of potentially illegal actions took place.
According the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, Joseph told ICE officers who were legally in her courtroom to leave and wait outside, adding that if the defendant were to be released, it would be through her courtroom. But that is not what happened. After some discussion with the defendant’s lawyer court officer and Joseph’s co-defendant Wesley MacGregor used his security access card to open the rear exit and release the defendant out of the sight of ICE agents. The man was arrested by immigration officials almost a month later.
Joseph, who was suspended but is still being paid, rejected a plea deal almost a year ago, and has been filing motion after motion in an effort to have the charges tossed. While she denies being aware of the plan to free the criminal alien, Joseph and her lawyers insist that even if guilty, she enjoys “judicial immunity” and cannot be held to account for her actions inside her courtroom. For good measure, both she and MacGregor claim prosecutors are driven by politics and animus toward her views on immigration.
Thomas Hoopes, her lawyer, alleged in court papers that the charges are “part of a larger campaign by the federal government, led by the President of the United States and supported by various federal officials, to punish those whom they viewed as being too ‘soft’ or lenient in their treatment of undocumented immigrants.”
But the prosecutor who is directing the case against the two officers of the court strongly disagrees. United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling says. “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.”
Politics certainly has impacted the case, but not from the prosecution’s side. Defense lawyers in the state launched a campaign claiming that prosecuting Joseph would dissuade illegal immigrants from going to court or cooperating with law enforcement. She also became a cause du jour among left-wing activists and pro-sanctuary politicians who launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay her legal fees after charges were filed.
Before her indictment, Massachusetts’ taxpayers were left to pick up her legal bills, which amounted to $127,000, according to the Boston Herald. But Massachusetts taxpayers and the criminal justice system will pay an even greater cost should Joseph and her co-conspirator be allowed to evade accountability.