Judge Charged with Helping Undocumented Immigrant Evade ICE Officer

A judge from Massachusetts and a court officer were indicted on April 25 after refusing to allow US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take custody of an undocumented immigrant, according to court documents. Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph, 51, of Natick, Massachusetts, and Trial Court Officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, of the Newton District Court were charged with one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of obstruction of justice in the case, the indictment stated. MacGregor was also charged with perjury.

“This case is about the rule of law,” United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said in a statement on April 25. “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. 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.”

The statement detailed that Newton Police officers arrested a suspect for reportedly being a fugitive with possession of narcotics on March 30, 2018. The suspect had been deported twice and ICE issued a detainer and a warrant of removal to deport him, according to the statement. The suspect was brought into the Newton District Court by a plainclothes ICE officer on April 2, 2018, and the officer was told to wait in the lobby.

During the court proceedings, Joseph allegedly arranged for the suspect, his interpreter and lawyer to be escorted by MacGregor through a different exit while the ICE officer waited outside the courtroom, according to the statement. “Immediately following the proceeding, defendant MacGregor escorted A.S. [alien subject] from the Courtroom downstairs to the lockup, accompanied by the Defense Attorney and an interpreter,” the indictment read. “Once inside the lockup, defendant MacGregor used his security access card to open the rear sally-port exit and released A.S.out the backdoor at approximately 3:01 p.m.”

The indictment, which includes transcripts from the court date in April, notes that the clerk asks the judge if she wanted to let the ICE officer back into the courtroom but she declined and allowed the subject to leave. MacGregor asks if the suspect has been released and the judge says yes. The government alleges that MacGregor let the suspect out through the backdoor, and that he and Joseph discussed ways to avoid the suspect from being arrested by the ICE agent. “It was a part of the conspiracy that defendant Joseph and the Defense Attorney agreed to create a pretext for A.S. to be brought back downstairs to the lockup so that A.S. could be released out the rear sally-port exit in order to evade arrest by the ICE Officer at the NDC Courthouse,” the indictment states.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement to MassLive.com that she was “deeply disappointed by US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s misuse of the prosecutorial resources and the chilling effect his actions will have.”

“Today’s indictment is a radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts,” Healey told the publication. “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.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.