MA judge who helped illegal immigrant evade ICE in 2019 has charges dropped and gets her job back on the bench

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BOSTON, MA – According to reports, a Massachusetts judge who has been suspended from the bench since 2019 will get her job back.

In 2019, Judge Shelley Joseph was federally accused of helping a man escape from a Newton court and from custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

In September, Joseph admitted to relevant facts in the case and the federal charges were then dropped. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court previously suspended Joseph based “solely on the fact that she had been indicted for alleged misconduct in the performance of her judicial duties.”

On Wednesday, November 16th, an order posted by the Supreme Judicial Court indicated that the decision has been reversed. The order stated, in part:

“The charges in the indictment against the judge have now been dismissed … The order of suspension, therefore, is terminated, effective immediately.”

According to reports, Joseph was indicted in April 2019 in the District of Massachusetts on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly preventing an ICE agent from taking custody of an “alien defendant.”

Joseph and retired court officer Wesley MacGregor were accused of allowing the man that ICE was after to escape from her courthouse.

In September, Joseph admitted to facts in the case and in a statement the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, “This will resolve the entirety of the pending federal prosecution.”

The case reportedly dates back to a hearing in 2018, and at the time, U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha said:

“This case is about the conduct of a sitting state court judge, on the bench, in the course of her judicial duties. Its purpose has been to shed light on, and, as warranted, to secure accountability for that conduct.”

Cunha added:

“After I was assigned to oversee this matter, I undertook a full and comprehensive review of the evidence, the applicable law, and relevant equitable and prudential factors. Having done so, I have concluded that the interests of justice are best served by review of this matter before the body that oversees the conduct of Massachusetts state court judges, rather than in a continued federal criminal prosecution.”

According to the September agreement, Joseph agreed that she will “not contest” the accuracy of a statement of facts that showed:

“…Joseph knew that an ICE officer was present in the courthouse waiting to take custody of [the defendant] if he was released from state custody. Joseph directed a court clerk to request that the ICE officer remain outside the courtroom in accordance with the practice of the presiding justice in Newton District Court.”

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The agreement added:

“This direction was contrary to the DHS policy, which reflects, consistent with Supreme Court precedent and constitutional guarantees, that courthouses and courtrooms are public spaces and open to the public absent extraordinary circumstances not present here.”

Previously, Joseph argued that, as a state district court judge, she was immune from federal prosecution for the conduct alleged in the indictment. She argued that the immunity protected her against not just conviction, but also against prosecution.

Joseph’s attorney William Keating said that he is hoping for a speedy resolution of the matter before the commission, arguing that his client did not violate the rules of the court.

The defense attorneys argued that the charges against Joseph were politically motivated by the former Trump administration. Joseph’s other defense attorney, Thomas Hoopes, said in a statement:

“This was a patently political indictment, blindly grounded in prosecutorial ambition. We are hopeful that it will result in a long deserved dismissal, which we take as full and complete exoneration.”

As of this writing, it is unclear what court Joseph might return to or when she might start hearing cases again. Her attorney said that her return to work may happen soon and that Joseph has no preference for where she ends up. Keating added:

“She is eligible to go back on the bench and is likely to return next week. The earlier the better. She is very anxious to do it. She’s always wanted to be a judge. She is highly qualified.”

MacGregor no longer works for the court system and according to Cunha’s office, he reached a deferred prosecution agreement where he will face one count of perjury while three counts — obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting; obstruction of a federal proceeding, aiding and abetting; and conspiracy to obstruct justice — will be dismissed.

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