A Massachusetts state district court judge has been indicted by federal prosecutors with helping a defendant escape the courthouse to avoid arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the media is not pleased.
Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph, 51, was shown in a photo on the Washington Post website leaving the courthouse in tears on Thursday after being charged with obstruction of justice and suspended without pay after prosecutors allege she helped a twice-deported illegal immigrant – who had been ordered not to return to the U.S. until at least 2027 – leave through the back door of the courthouse to avoid an ICE agent who had come to the court to arrest him.
According to prosecutors, Joseph ordered her court officer – who also is charged in the case – to ask the ICE agent to leave the courtroom on the promise the defendant would be released into the courthouse lobby and could be detained there. Instead, they arranged for the man to go downstairs with his lawyer, then let him out the back door.
The court officer, Wesley McGregor, is charged with perjury because he told Justice Department officials he did not know there was an ICE officer in the courtroom.
The Associated Press’ Alanna Durkin Richer wrote two paragraphs on the facts of the story, then began to line up objections to the arrest.
“The charges against Joseph and McGregor were swiftly condemned in a statement from the state’s attorney general, who called the case a ‘radical and politically motivated attack’ on the courts by federal authorities,” she wrote.
“Lawyers, judges and advocates have criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for stepping up immigration arrests at courthouses, saying it is disrupting the criminal justice system and scaring people away from its halls of justice” – then quoted the judge’s attorney saying the prosecution “is absolutely political. Shelley Joseph is absolutely innocent.”
In “Justice Department Indicts Judge Who Helped Immigrant Evade ICE In Her Courthouse,” by Mark Joseph Stern, Slate started by illustrating the story with a photo of a woman holding up a sign that says, “Abolish I.C.E.”
It then declared the judge’s arrest “for helping an unauthorized immigrant avoid [ICE] officers in her own courthouse” constituted “a remarkable intrusion into the internal affairs of a state judiciary and possible retaliation against Massachusetts’ ‘sanctuary’ policies. Rarely in modern history has the federal government sought to punish a state judge in exercise of judicial functions. This prosecution sends a clear threat to state courts around the country that do not want to be commandeered by ICE.”
He concluded: “This case, then, appears deeply political – a warning to judges who, like Joseph, will not collude with ICE under any circumstances, and may even work to thwart ICE’s goals. Few, if any, contemporary legal disputes involve such a direct clash between federal and state authority; one might need to revisit the Fugitive Slave Act cases to locate a roughly analogous conflict between federal authorities and state courts. While the legal issues here are murky and complex, the message from the Justice Department is clear: State judges who help immigrants evade arrest in jurisdictions with sanctuary policies may themselves wind up behind bars.”
CNN noted in “Judge accused of helping an undocumented immigrant escape an ICE officer,” by Ray Sanchez, that the “subject of mounting arrests at courthouses during the Trump administration has been particularly sensitive between major cities and federal officials. Local jurisdictions and attorneys have complained that arresting undocumented immigrants in courthouses has a chilling effect on their participation in prosecuting criminals as witnesses and reporting victims.”
ABC News left out the part about lying, turning off the court recording equipment for 52 seconds, which the judge did allegedly to hatch her plan, and sneaking the man, who also was wanted for drug charges in Pennsylvania, out the back door.
“A state judge in Massachusetts was indicted Thursday for refusing to allow ICE to take custody of an undocumented immigrant,” the lead read on “Judge indicted in Massachusetts for refusing to allow undocumented immigrant to be detained,” by Aaron Katersky, Luke Barr and Quinn Owen.