She’s accused of helping a twice-deported criminal avoid ICE. She’s also a Massachusetts judge.
Now a new report shows that taxpayers footed the bill for $127,000 in legal fees.
On top of that, the report shows what a court officer who was indicted along with the judge has benefitted from $2,500 in legal fees paid by the public.
In April, Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph, 51, pleaded not guilty in court. That’s when she was arraigned in Boston on obstruction-of-justice charges stemming from an incident that prosecutors say took place April 2, 2018.
In court documents released in April, prosecutors argued that Joseph, along with Court Officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, helped Jose Medina-Perez, a twice-deported criminal not in the country legally and who had a fugitive warrant for drunken driving in Pennsylvania, sneak out a back door.
Prosecutors allege that Joseph asked an immigration agent who was in the courtroom to leave, and said Medina-Perez would be released into the courthouse lobby.
That’s not what happened. Instead, after the hearing, MacGregor led him downstairs to the lockup and out a back door, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said.
That allowed him to elude agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — after he appeared in court to be arraigned on drug charges.
Medina-Perez had been barred from entering the U.S. until 2027. He was caught by immigration officials about a month after the hearing.
Now he’s in deportation proceedings after previously being deported in 2003 and 2007, the Boston Herald reported.
Joseph was suspended without pay after her indictment. But she later filed an appeal to have her salary of $184,600 reinstated, according to the Boston Herald.
The report also said MacGregor was being paid $83,344 a year, but recently retired.
The Herald also revealed that donors on a crowdfunding site have pledged more than $60,000 to help Joseph pay legal bills.
A court official told the paper that taxpayers ceased picking up the tab for the judge when she was indicted.
Joseph and MacGregor were both charged with obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting; obstruction of a federal proceeding, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
On top of that, MacGregor was also charged with perjury before a federal grand jury.
If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, in the meantime, is ripping mad about the charges.
She said in a statement that the indictment “is a radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.”
“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,” she continued. “This matter could have been appropriately handled by the Commission on Judicial Conduct and the Trial Court. I am deeply disappointed by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s misuse of prosecutorial resources and the chilling effect his actions will have.”
According to Lelling, the charges were not meant to send a message about immigration policy.
According to him, he’s “heard the occasional gasp of dismay or outrage at the notion of holding a judge accountable for violating federal law … but if the law is not applied equally it cannot credibly be applied to anyone.”
Massachusetts is the same state that in April announced it’s going to stop prosecuting a variety of crimes.
Suffolk County, Massachusetts District Attorney Rachael Rollins has pledged in a 65-page manifesto to stop prosecuting at least 15 crimes, including shoplifting, trespassing, drug possession, and damage to property.
Top state safety and law enforcement officials have sharply criticized the “criminal justice overhaul” planned by District Attorney Rollins, saying it could have an adverse impact on the opioid crisis and put crime victims at more significant risk.
The Boston Globe reports:
“Massachusetts Public Safety and Security Secretary Thomas A. Turco III took aim at Rollins’s proposals to not prosecute certain drug possession crimes and relatively minor crimes, and her approach to pretrial release conditions such as GPS monitoring and orders to stay away from individuals or areas.”
According to Rollins, her plan is designed to “reduce racial and socioeconomic disparities”.
But others, and most people looking in from the outside of this policy letter, are seeing it as a “get out of jail free” card for people in those social and socioeconomic groups – endangering communities and giving criminals a free pass to commit common crimes.
Rollins doubled-down in her interview with the Globe:
“I’m excited that the Secretary shares my commitment to addressing and preventing the violent crime that overwhelmingly affects Black and Brown people in Suffolk County,” said Rollins. “My prosecutors distinguish between petty offenses and serious criminal conduct every single day, and I’d be happy to address his hypothetical concerns with some of our real-world experience anytime he wants to pick up the phone.”
Turco took exception to Rollins’ plan to reduce background assessments to the previous 3 years only, disregarding crimes committed before that, stating that “some of the offenders with the worst criminal histories will regularly be treated as first-time offenders.”
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One of the biggest landmines appears to be the total lack of concern for the devastating effects of drugs like fentanyl and heroin.
In the policy/manifest, there’s a rule declining to prosecute dealers of heroin, fentanyl and other illegal drugs who are charged with possession with intent to distribute, so long as the amount the defendant is caught with on a particular occasion is below a threshold representing hundreds of dollars of heroin or fentanyl.
Keep in mind that fentanyl has been used in the medical profession for quite some time, but in carefully redacted doses given via patch or injection, while having direct contact with an amount as little as a gram of fentanyl can cause severe illness or death.
In other words, there’s no true minimum threshold for the danger of this drug on the street – many a police officer or EMS worker has nearly died after coming into casual contact with fentanyl during searches and arrests, or while giving emergency medical treatment.
Several other unacceptable exceptions Turco and other officials noted was where Rollins outlined her plans to address the substance abuse crisis, saying she would “strongly consider supervised consumption sites, safe needle exchange and cleanup programs, and widespread availability of drug test strips and of the life-saving drug Naloxone.”
Also, another portion of the directive does not seek “stay away orders or electronic monitoring for people who commit dangerous offenses unless there is a threat to a specific person or property.”
Such a rule, Turco indicated, does not account for those charged with crimes against children being ordered to stay away from children or playgrounds. Nor does it account for “gang members armed with unlawful weapons” being ordered to stay away from a rival’s turf.
Turco also disliked a rule declining to prosecute possession of “20, 30, or even 40 pounds” of marijuana as a crime of possession with intent to distribute.
Two other factors have people in the law enforcement community shaking their collective heads:
First, the memo directs that if a member of Rollins’ staff sees federal immigration authorities, including officers from ICE or the Department of Homeland Security, either apprehending or questioning people who are due to appear in court about their residency status in or near the “public areas of any Suffolk County courthouse,” they are to report it to her, her first assistant, or her general counsel.
Rollins also said Suffolk prosecutors will begin to factor “into all charging and sentencing decisions the potential of immigration consequences.”
You read that right – her office would micromanage and subvert the authority of ICE.
The memo touched on other policies, including cash bail.
Her office’s official policy regarding cash bail and pretrial release will be the “presumptive recommendation of release on personal recognizance without conditions,” according to the document.
“Presumptive recommendation” and “without conditions” are two phrases that shouldn’t be combined, according to most in law enforcement, and won’t make the law enforcement community rest easy and should incite fear and anger in the area’s citizens.
One more factor is the general attitude of Rollins that incarceration should be only used as a last resort.