NEWTON, Mass. — A local judge and a trial court officer were indicted Thursday for their roles in allegedly aiding an undocumented immigrant escape ICE agents in court.
Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph, 51, of Natick, and former Trial Court Officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, of Watertown, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of obstruction of justice - aiding and abetting. MacGregor was also charged with one count of perjury.
Joseph has since been suspended without pay from her judicial duties. She was released on conditions after pleading not guilty in court Thursday.
"This prosecution is absolutely political. Shelley Joseph is absolutely innocent," her attorney Thomas Hoopes said outside the federal courthouse.
"This case is about the rule of law," said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. "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."
In December, Governor Charlie Baker called for the removal of Joseph after she was accused of helping an undocumented immigrant sneak out her courtroom while an ICE agent was waiting inside the courthouse to detain him and begin the deportation process.
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 Boston Globe, Medina-Perez's defense attorney can be heard at the bench with the prosecutor and Joseph discussing their doubt as to whether Medina-Perez had been correctly identified by ICE.
At one point during the recording, Joseph can be heard asking to "go off the record for a moment."
For nearly a minute, the recorder was turned off. When it was turned back on, Joseph released Medina-Perez but did not allow the ICE agent to go inside the courtroom.
Immediately after the proceeding, MacGregor allegedly escorted Medina-Perez, his attorney and an interpreter out of the building through a back exit door.
According to the Globe, the incident in question happened about a year ago.
"In this case, like so many others across Massachusetts, an ICE officer staked out a state court and made it difficult for court officials to do their job, which is to ensure that people in state court have access to justice. But instead of rethinking its own awful behavior, the federal government has now charged a judge and a court officer with crimes," the ACLU of Massachusetts said in a statement. "This decision seems to have little to do with the actual facts, and everything to do with enforcing the president’s anti-immigrant agenda."
MacGregor was charged with perjury after he testified before a grand jury saying he didn't know ICE agents were waiting in the courthouse and that there was a detainer for the defendant.
A spokesperson for the court tells Boston 25 that Joseph was most recently assigned to various courts in Region 3, which includes Cambridge, Chelsea and Gloucester.
Cox Media Group