A Boston-area judge and her court officer have been accused of conspiracy to obstruct justice by helping an undocumented immigrant escape from a courthouse.
The judge in question is Newton District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph and the officer is Wesley MacGregor. According to NBC News, the two were accused of helping the twice-deported defendant escape ICE when they helped him slip out the back door of the courthouse on April 2.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston reported that defendant in questions, only identified as A.S., was being tried on drug possession charges and being a fugitive from justice. He is one of 43.3 million foreign-born people currently living in the United States.
The judge and court officer have since pleaded not guilty to the crime, however, Judge Joseph has been suspended without pay.
Everyone in the justice system — not just judges, but law enforcement officers, prosecutors and defense counsel — should be held to a higher standard,” claims US Attorney Andrew Lelling in a statement. “The people of Massachusetts expect that, just like they expect judges to be fair, impartial and to follow the law themselves.”
According to CNN, the judge paused the court video for 52 seconds after learning that the defendant would be obtained by ICE if they pleaded guilty in the courthouse.
CNN notes that “The subject of mounting ICE arrests at courthouses during the Trump administration has been particularly sensitive between major cities and federal officials. Local jurisdictions and attorneys have complained that arresting undocumented immigrants in courthouses has a chilling effect on their participation in prosecuting criminals as witnesses and reporting victims.”
CNN also reports that ICE does not include courthouses on its list of sensitive locations, like hospitals and schools. This means that the service won’t hesitate to make arrests in a federal courthouse.
When the recorder was turned back on, Judge Joseph claimed that she intended to release the defendant. After push-back from the prosecutor, the defense attorney reportedly said they wished to speak to A.S. downstairs with the help of an interpreter.
A.S., the attorney, and the interpreter were then escorted by officer MacGregor downstairs where MacGregor allegedly used his security card to open the back door, thus allowing the defendant to escape.
After the hearing, the two were released without bond.