A Massachusetts judge and court officer have found themselves in hot water for allegedly assisting in the release of an illegal immigrant from ICE custody.
Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and court officer Wesley MacGregor are both being charged with obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting, obstruction of a federal proceeding, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. MacGregor is also be charged with perjury. The charges were announced in a press conference on Thursday afternoon by U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling and Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations in Boston.
The illegal immigrant at the center of this bizarre tale is Jose Medina-Perez. Medina-Perez was deported twice before and he had a fugitive warrant out for his arrest last year for drunk driving in Pennsylvania. Medina-Perez found himself in Joseph’s courtroom in April of last year to answer for drug charges, and that was where ICE planned on detaining him.
ICE had issued a detainer, an official request to hold an individual for up to 48 hours so they can be detained and deported, on Medina-Perez and an officer was waiting in the lobby of the courthouse to take the man into custody once his arraignment in front of the judge was done.
Courtroom audio recordings obtained by the Boston Globe reveal that Medina-Perez’s lawyer informed the judge that if his client left the courtroom, he would be detained and deported.
“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,” the lawyer said.
The judge then responded, “what if we detain him?”
After this remark, the judge orders that the courtroom’s audio recorder be turned off. This leaves no audio for the next minute.
After the audio recording was turned back on, Medina-Perez’s lawyer said his client had “some property downstairs.” The judge then agreed to let him get the property.
Court documents state that MacGregor then helped Medina-Perez move past the ICE agent undetected and got him out of the building using his security clearance.
Medina-Perez may have eluded custody at the courthouse, but he was arrested about a month later. That immigration judge, however, let him go on bond. Medina-Perez is 38 years old and a native of the Dominican Republic. His real name is Oscar Manuel Peguero, but he has gone by several aliases. He was deported in 2003 and then again in 2007.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Joseph to her position as Newton District judge in 2017, but he now says that Joseph should not be allowed to preside over criminal cases while this matter is being investigated.
“I don’t believe she should be hearing criminal cases until that federal case is resolved,” Baker said. “Look, judges are not supposed to be in the business of obstructing justice. And as far as I can tell, based on the facts as they were presented, she clearly violated the court’s own policies with respect to the way they’re supposed to handle continuance and involve federal immigration enforcement.”
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