A Massachusetts judge is being charged with obstruction of justice for her part in allegedly helping a twice-deported illegal immigrant flee ICE agents.
According to Fox News, Judge Shelley M. Richmond Johnson “and court officer Wesley MacGregor were indicted by a federal grand jury for obstruction of justice and three other counts.
“The pair allegedly helped Jose Medina-Perez get out of the Massachusetts courthouse in 2018 through a back door in order to elude the ICE agent who sought him.”
Medina-Perez is an illegal immigrant with a fugitive warrant for a drunken driving charge. He had been deported twice previously and was appearing in Judge Joseph’s courtroom to be arraigned on drug charges.
Former ICE special agent Jim Hayes, describes the “pretty brazen obstruction of justice” that Judge Joseph undertook.
Apparently, there was an “on-the-record’ discussion in the courtroom. Then the recorder was turned off. All the while, the judge is aware of an active warrant for the defendant, and that another law enforcement agency was there ready to enforce that warrant.
The judge and the court officer are accused of letting Medina-Perez out a back door explicitly to elude the waiting agents.
According to courtroom recordings, “Medina-Perez was the subject of an ICE detainer -- a written request to hold an individual wanted for deportation for up to 48 hours -- and an ICE agent was waiting in the lobby of the courthouse to detain Medina-Perez after the arraignment, officials said."
“But during the hearing, Joseph asked Medina-Perez’s attorney ‘ICE is going to get him?’ according to courtroom recordings obtained by the Boston Globe in December and released in court documents Thursday.
"Medina-Perez' lawyer was also heard telling Joseph ‘ICE will pick him up if he walks out the front door. But I think the best thing for us to do is clear the fugitive issue and release him on a personal, and hope that he can avoid ICE...That's the best I can do.’
“‘What if we detain him?’ the judge asked before requesting the clerk to turn off the courtroom’s audio recorder, leaving nearly a minute unrecorded.
“Minutes later, Medina-Perez's attorney said his client ‘has some property downstairs’ and needed to speak to an interpreter, which Joseph allowed.
“MacGregor then used his security access card to escort Medina-Perez out of the courthouse without being seen by the ICE agent, officials said.
"With the recorder off, defendant Joseph and the Defense Attorney discussed devising a way to have A.S. [Medina-Perez] avoid being arrested by the ICE officer," court documents stated.
In addition, Joseph lied to her superiors when they asked about the incident, according to U.S. Attorney General Andrew Lelling.
Hayes warns citizens of the eroding impartiality off the court system under judges like Joseph. He says members of the justice community must act with integrity and legality in order for the system to work.
"These charges make it abundantly clear that activism from the bench is not allowed and that immigration laws aren’t optional.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is blasting the indictments, calling them, “a radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts."
She went on to say that "It is a bedrock principle of our constitutional system that federal prosecutors should not recklessly interfere with the operation of state courts and their administration of justice.”
Not so, says Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, who led the investigation.
"As public servants, all of the officers in the court make a promise — a promise to serve the people’s interest above all else. Today we know this promise has been broken.”
"The people of this country deserve nothing less than to know that their appointed and elected representatives are working on their behalf, while adhering to and enforcing the rule of law, not a personal agenda," Fitzhugh said.
"The special agents of Homeland Security Investigations remain committed to upholding our promise to the public, without compromise.”
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling agrees.
“This case is about the rule of law," Lelling said on Thursday. "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."