Judge MA accused of helping man escape immigration detention admits facts, drops federal charges

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The federal case against a Newton District Court judge accused of helping a man escape federal immigration officers’ custody has been dismissed after the judge admitted he had “relevant facts” in the case and referred himself to the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates judicial misconduct.

District Judge Shelley Joseph was charged in Massachusetts in April 2019 with obstruction of justice for allegedly preventing an ICE officer from gaining custody of an “alien defendant.”

Joseph and retired bailiff Wesley MacGregor were charged with letting the man ICE was looking for escape from her courthouse.

A separate agreement has also been reached to delay the prosecution of MacGregor, who was charged with one count of perjury.

“This resolves the entire pending federal prosecution,” said a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“This case concerns the conduct of a sitting judge of the state court, on the bench, in the exercise of her judicial duties. The purpose was to shed light on and, as warranted, secure accountability for that conduct,” US Attorney Zachary Cunha said.

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“After being appointed to oversee this case, I conducted a full and comprehensive review of the evidence, applicable law and relevant fair and prudential factors,” Cunha said. “Having done so, I have come to the conclusion that the best interests of the justice system would be a review of this case before the body that oversees the conduct of Massachusetts judges, rather than in a continued federal criminal charges.”

“Requiring Judge Joseph to refer himself to the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct and make certain factual confessions will ensure review,” Cunha said.

Under that agreement, Judge Joseph agreed to verify the veracity of a statement of fact stating that “Joseph knew there was an ICE officer present at the courthouse, waiting to take custody of (the defendant), will not dispute if he would be released from state custody. DHS policy, which, consistent with Supreme Court precedent and constitutional guarantees, reflects that courthouses and courtrooms are public spaces and open to the public with no extraordinary circumstances not present here.”

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“After the off-the-record section of the sidebar, the attorney officially asked if he could go downstairs with (the defendant) and an interpreter so they could speak. The defense attorney also stated that his client had real estate downstairs. Joseph stated in the report that she granted the defense attorney’s request. The clerk officially reminded the judge that ICE agents were present and tried to take the defendant into custody.”

“The defense lawyer and the interpreter accompanied (the defendant) downstairs to the locked room. Shortly thereafter, a bailiff used his key card to open the door to the exit gate and released (the defendant) the back door.”

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“The ICE officers learned of (the defendant’s) release after it happened. (The defendant) was not taken into custody by ICE on April 2, 2018.”

Judge Joseph had previously argued that, as a state district court judge, she was immune from federal prosecution for the conduct alleged in the indictment. That immunity, she argued, protected her not only from conviction but also from prosecution.

In March, a federal appeals court dismissed a motion to review or dismiss the case against Joseph as “premature.”

This is a story in development. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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