Boston, MA – A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a Massachusetts state judge who helped an illegal immigrant drug suspect to escape out the back door of the courthouse.
Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and Court Officer Wesley MacGregor have both been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting, and obstruction of a federal proceeding, WHDH reported.
MacGregor, 56, 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.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts announced on April 19 that the 51-year-old Joseph had been suspended from the bench without pay, according to WHDH.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office held a press conference on Thursday afternoon to detail the indictment and told reporters the case was not about immigration, but rather, the judge’s decision to ignore the law.
“This case is about the rule of law. 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," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said. "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,” Lelling continued. “The people of Massachusetts expect that, just like they expect judges to be fair, impartial, and to follow the law themselves.”
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 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 Apr. 2 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, he was arrested in Roslindale, but an immigration judge freed him on bond until his hearing.
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.
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.