NEWTON, Mass. — Governor Charlie Baker is calling for the temporary removal of a state judge who's being accused of helping an undocumented immigrant escape immigration authorities.
Boston 25 News has learned that Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph is now at the center of a federal grand jury probe after a story first reported by the Boston Globe.
The investigation is looking into whether Judge Joseph helped an undocumented immigrant sneak out the back door of her courtroom as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was waiting inside the courthouse to detain him and begin the deportation process.
The divide in local legal and law enforcement communities is being highlighted in this investigation. While some accuse this judge of violating court policies and obstructing justice, others believe the real conversation should be focused on aggressive federal immigration policies.
According to the Globe, the incident in question happened in April.
Jose Medina-Perez, a Dominican Republic native, was facing drug charges as well as a fugitive warrant for drunk driving.
In an audio recording obtained by the Globe, Medina-Perez's defense attorney can be heard at the bench with the prosecutor and Judge Joseph discussing their doubt as to whether Medina-Perez had been correctly identified by ICE.
At one point during the recording, Judge Joseph can be heard asking to "go off the record for a moment."
What was said after that is unclear because the recording stops. However, Medina-Perez was reportedly quickly escorted out of the courtroom and released.
Now, Governor Baker is calling for Judge Joseph to be removed from criminal cases during the investigation.
"The facts of this case as presented by media indicate a willful attempt to obstruct the work of a federal law enforcement official and that’s an inappropriate role for a judge," Governor Baker said.
In a written statement, the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers says they disagree with Governor Baker, saying in part:
"Both US citizens and noncitizens are being denied due process and access to our courts in Massachusetts because of ICE arrests in and around courthouses [...] ICE interference in our state court proceedings has significantly undermined the ability of our courts to deliver justice."
The judge and the trial court are not commenting on the investigation.
While ICE isn’t commenting on any specifics, a spokesman says it would be gravely concerning for a court representative to aid an immigration fugitive in evading the law.
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