Rules are rules, one Massachusetts judge apparently had to be reminded of this week. On Thursday, a grand jury indicted Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph on federal charges of obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting for allegedly interfering with a federal investigation after letting an illegal alien escape her courtroom out the back door in order to avoid arrest by an Immigration and Customs enforcement agent waiting in the lobby.
The Boston Herald reports that "in addition to Joseph, the grand jury indicted former $83,344-a-year Trial Court officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, of Watertown, with obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting, as well as perjury."
Both individuals pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon and were released on their recognizance. It is unclear when the next court appearance will take place, but Joseph's attorney Thomas Hoopes is already arguing the arrest is politically motivated, saying "Shelley Joseph is absolutely innocent."
But US Attorney Andrew Lelling rebutted this claim by saying, "From certain quarters I've 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. Are judges special? Sure. But not because of the privileges they have enjoyed. They're special because they're entrusted with enormous power. They explicitly swear to uphold the law and they are given life tenure under the state constitution."
Lelling explained that the illegal alien in question, only identified as A.S., had been shielded from ICE on April 2 2018.
"ICE had dispatched a single federal officer in plainclothes to take custody of A.S. after his release from Newton District Court. When the officer got to the courthouse, he announced his identity and purpose for being there to various courthouse personnel, including the court clerk, who then told Judge Joseph. The federal officer then sat in the public seating area of the courtroom, waiting for A.S.'s case to be called," Lelling told media.
The Herald reports that "before that happened, Lelling said, Joseph ordered the ICE agent to wait in the lobby. During the audio taping of A.S.'s hearing, Lelling said Joseph ordered the court clerk to turn off the recording device for what turned out to be 52 seconds."
"The judge and the defense attorney then conspired to have A.S. released out the back door of the courthouse to avoid the ICE officer," he added. "Once downstairs, MacGregor opened the back door to the courthouse and released A.S. The ICE officer who was told to wait outside in the courtroom in the lobby did not know A.S. had been released, and in fact sat there waiting for someone who was already gone."
Lelling stressed that this case was purely about the rule of law, and nothing else. "Now, there are two things this case is not about. First, this is not a referendum on the Massachusetts Trial Court. The state Trial Court is staffed with professional, capable jurists working in the public interest with limited resources. This matter is an outlier."
"Second ... this case is not about immigration. It is about the rule of law. We don't get to pick and choose the federal laws that we follow. The allegations in today's indictment involve the intentional interference with federal officers in the course of their duties. That is a crime. It makes no difference to me if the federal laws are immigration laws, drug laws, tax laws, or anything else."