A Boston-area judge and her trial court officer are facing up to 20 years in prison after they helped an undocumented immigrant escape the grasp of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in April 2018, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.
A federal immigration cop was waiting in District Court Judge Shelley M. Joseph’s public gallery for an undocumented Dominican man due in court when he was asked to leave. Joseph requested that the officer wait in the lobby and said she would release the undocumented man into the lobby later, according to court documents.
Joseph and a trial court officer, Wesley MacGregor, instead helped the Dominican immigrant evade the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and sneak out the court building’s back door. Joseph and MacGregor were indicted on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and obstruction through aiding and abetting for helping the immigrant escape, according to court documents.
At the time of the immigrant’s escape, he was facing an outstanding fugitive warrant for a drunk driving arrest and drug charges.
“We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow”
“We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow, or use our personal views to justify violating the law,” United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said in a news release. “Everyone in the justice system – not just judges, but law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defense counsel – should be held to a higher standard.”
Critically, according to court documents, Joseph tried to cover up the escape by asking if she could go “off the record” in her own courtroom and strike a conversation about the immigrant from the clerk’s record. (Courtroom deliberations are usually recorded or transcribed.)
By the time the conversation went back “on the record,” the immigrant’s attorney asked that Joseph drop the fugitive warrant, and she agreed, but it wasn’t clear how they'd reached that conclusion. The court’s clerk reminded Joseph that an ICE agent was in the courthouse.
“That’s fine. I’m not gonna allow them to come in here,” Joseph responded, according to court documents.
The Dominican immigrant, identified as A.S. in court documents but previously known as Jose Medina-Perez, was arrested after the April 2018 courtroom escape, released on bond, and now faces deportation. Perez also goes by the names Julio Alexis Rios and Oscar Manuel Peguero. He’s already been deported twice — once in 2003 and another time in 2007.
The incident was first reported by the Boston Globe in December, which led to calls for the judge’s resignation from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Barker.
Cover: In this March 12, 2019, file photo, Andrew Lelling, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, speaks during a news conference in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)