Federal authorities are charging a Massachusetts District Court judge and a trial court officer with obstruction of justice and other crimes, according to an indictment obtained by 5 Investigates.
Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph was suspended without pay Thursday, just hours after the federal indictment was announced.
The judge allowed twice-deported immigrant evade federal custody, report says Joseph and Wesley MacGregor, the trial court officer, are accused of conspiring to prevent Immigration and Customs Enforcement from taking an immigrant into custody at Newton District Court on April 2, 2018.
Both were allowed to surrender themselves to face the charges, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office said.
They appeared in federal court for a hearing Thursday afternoon. Both pleaded not guilty and were released without bond.
The immigrant, who had been deported twice before, was arrested four days earlier for narcotics possession and being a fugitive from justice in Pennsylvania. When his fingerprints were taken, ICE became aware of the arrest.
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 for 52 seconds in order to conceal a conversation about getting the immigrant out of the courthouse, the indictment said.
According to the indictment filed by 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.
“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,” Lelling said. “We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow or use our personal views to justify violating the law.”
Gov. Charlie Baker had previously called for Joseph to be removed from the bench.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey called the indictment a “misuse of prosecutorial resources” and said she believed it to be nothing more than a radical and politically-motivated attack.
“Today’s indictment is a radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement about the case. “It is a bedrock principle of our constitutional system that federal prosecutors should not recklessly interfere with the operation of state courts and their administration of justice. This matter could have been appropriately handled by the Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Trial Court. I am deeply disappointed by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s misuse of prosecutorial resources and the chilling effect his actions will have.”
Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts joined in the criticism Of Lelling stating “The Department of Justice’s decision to bring this case is preposterous, ironic, and deeply damaging to the rule of law.”
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