Newton, MA – The Massachusetts state judge who was suspended without pay for helping an illegal immigrant drug suspect escape out the back door of the courthouse is demanding that her salary be reinstated while the federal case against her is pending.
“Unproven and unfounded charges by the federal government do not compel this unprecedented and serious sanction, or the lack of fair process that attended its imposition,” Newton District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph’s attorneys wrote in a motion, according to MassLive.
Joseph, 51, and Court Officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, have both been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting, and obstruction of a federal proceeding, WHDH reported.
MacGregor was also charged with perjury for giving false testimony to a federal grand jury when he said he did not know there was a U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) agent in the building waiting to take the suspect into custody.
Joseph, who made $181,000 in 2018, was suspended without pay by the Supreme Judicial Court in late April.
“This Order is based solely on the fact that a sitting judge has been indicted for alleged misconduct in the performance of her judicial duties,” the court’s suspension order read, according to MassLive. "It in no way reflects any opinion on the merits of the pending criminal case."
But Joseph’s attorneys railed that the unpaid suspension is “without precedent” for a judge in Massachusetts, MassLive reported.
“The order runs counter to the presumption of innocence to which Judge Joseph is entitled,” her attorneys said.
Joseph complained that she and her husband, a real estate attorney, may have to sell their home to cover their basic expenses and her legal bills, The Boston Globe reported.
“Prior to the indictment, my family was able to meet its financial expenses, but with very little room for error,” Joseph’s affidavit read. “Since my suspension without pay, our family income has decreased by more than half, because I had been earning more than my husband.”
The suspended judge noted that she financially supports her widowed mother, and that she has two daughters in college.
“We have been able to borrow funds from family and friends to help pay part of the legal defense fees,” Joseph added. “It is unlikely, however, that any further loans will be available.”
She also told the court that the only “savings” she and her husband have are their “retirement funds,” and that not having her six-figure salary “may impact her ability to defend herself against the indictment,” according to the motion.
The law firm representing Joseph with regards to her demand to have her pay reinstated is handling the case pro bono, The Boston Globe reported.
The grand jury investigation into Joseph began after she allowed a twice-deported illegal alien, who had been arrested on drug charges and was a wanted fugitive in Pennsylvania, to escape out the back door of the courthouse to avoid him being taken into custody by an ICE agent who was there to pick him up.
Jose Medina-Perez – whose true name may actually be Oscar Manuel Peguero or Julio Alexis Rios – was arrested by Newton police on Mar. 30, 2018, on an outstanding Pennsylvania warrant for drunk driving, The Boston Globe reported.
Officers also found pills and two bags of suspected cocaine on Medina-Perez at the time of his arrest.
The suspect told police he was a 36-year-old American citizen, and was ultimately charged with drug possession and being a fugitive from justice.
When he went to Joseph’s court on April 2, 2018, for his initial appearance, he was provided with a Spanish interpreter and an attorney, David Jellinek.
But as the hearing began, Jellinek, Joseph, and Middlesex County Prosecutor Shannon Jurgens huddled together to discuss Medina-Perez’s illegal status and whether or not he was truly the same person named in the Pennsylvania warrant.
Then the judge kicked the plainclothes ICE agent, who was sitting patiently waiting for the hearing to end, out of the courtroom, according to the U.S. attorney.
“ICE will pick him up if he walks out the front door,” Jellinek said in a courtroom audio recording, according to the Boston Globe. “But I think the best thing for us to do is clear the fugitive issue and release him…”
Jurgens didn’t even attempt to resist the defense attorney’s proposal.
“There is a detainer attached to my paperwork, but I felt like that’s separate and apart from what my role is,” she said in the recording.
“ICE is going to get him,” Joseph concluded, just before she told the court clerk to stop recording the proceeding.
The audio recording resumed about one minute later.
Jurgens then asked Joseph to dismiss the warrant against Medina-Perez, and claimed he did not match the mugshot on the warrant.
Joseph dismissed the fugitive charge and was not required to hold the suspect in jail for the pending drug offenses.
The judge also gave Jellinek permission to escort Medina-Perez downstairs so he could pick up “some property” there, the Boston Globe reported.
As the hearing was coming to an end, a member of the courtroom staff told Joseph that an ICE agent was “requesting permission to visit lockup,” according to the paper.
“I’m not going to allow them to come in here,” the judge said.
Minutes later, Medina-Perez was taken downstairs, released from custody, and ushered out a back door, the Boston Globe reported.
The indictment said that MacGregor used his security card to open the door at about 3 p.m. for the fugitive to escape, MassLive reported.
The illegal alien quickly scaled a fence and took off.
Later in April of 2018, he was arrested in Roslindale, but an immigration judge freed him on bond until his hearing.
He is due to appear before an immigration judge again in July, The Boston Globe reported.
According to ICE, Medina-Perez is a citizen of the Dominican Republic who was previously deported from the U.S. in January of 2003 and in June of 2007, MassLive reported.
Law enforcement was furious with Joseph’s handing of the case.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson blasted the court over the allegations, which he called “completely outrageous.”
“I don’t know how you can send a message to the public that you’re there to protect people from criminals and then undermine law enforcement by letting them out the door,” Sheriff Hodgson said.
“It’s as bad as it gets when we have courts undermining law enforcement,” he railed. “They’re supposed to work together.”
Joseph previously worked as a criminal defense attorney, and she was appointed to the bench by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in 2017, ABC News reported.
She already turned down a plea agreement that would have allowed her to avoid both federal prosecution and prison time, the Boston Herald reported.
Her defense attorney, Thomas Hoopes, has asked the court to give him two months to construct a motion to dismiss the charges against the suspended judge, according to The Boston Globe.
She faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
“Nobody wants to go faster than we do,” Hoopes said. “My client is suspended without pay.”