BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey blasted U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling on Thursday after a Newton judge and court officer were indicted for allegedly helping a defendant leave through a courthouse back door to dodge ICE.
District Court Judge Shelley Joseph and court officer Wesley MacGregor are facing federal charges of obstruction of justice, accused of helping Jose Medina-Perez evade an ICE officer last year.
“Today’s 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,” Healey said in a statement. “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.”
Medina-Perez, identified in court documents as an “alien subject,” was arrested last March as a fugitive from justice from Pennsylvania on narcotics possession charges, and ICE issued a federal immigration detainer. He had allegedly entered the country illegally for a third time.
Court documents state that Joseph through a clerk ordered a plainclothes ICE officer to wait outside her courtroom until Medina-Perez was released. MacGregor allegedly used his security access card at a book door, and the ICE officer did not realize that Medina-Perez exited the courthouse.
The ACLU of Massachusetts is calling the prosecution “preposterous, ironic, and deeply damaging to the rule of law.”
“In contrast to Attorney General William Barr’s famously narrow view of what constitutes obstruction of justice—at least when it comes to President Trump—the Department of Justice has now charged a state judge and court security officer based on a theory of obstruction that is shockingly aggressive,” Executive Director Carol Rose said in a statement. “This decision seems to have little to do with the actual facts, and everything to do with enforcing the president’s anti-immigrant agenda.”
ICE also issued a statement following Joseph’s indictment.
“The actions of the judge in this incident are a detriment to the rule of law and highly offensive to the law enforcement officers of ICE who swear an oath to uphold our nation’s immigration laws,” said Todd M. Lyons, Acting Field Office Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, Boston. “In order for our criminal justice system to work fairly for all people, it must be protected against judicial officials who would seek to replace the implementation of our laws with their own ideological views or politically-driven agenda. I would also like to thank U.S. Attorney Lelling for his local leadership and his continuous and faithful support of the ERO law enforcement mission.”