BOSTON, MA (Fox News) – A Massachusetts judge and a court officer accused of helping an illegal immigrant flee an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent waiting to take him into custody were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury for obstruction of justice and three other counts, officials said.
U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling and Peter Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of the Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, announced the charges in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and the court officer, identified in court documents as Wesley MacGregor, face several charges stemming from an April 2, 2018 incident in which the pair allegedly helped Jose Medina-Perez get out of the courthouse via a back door in order to elude the ICE agent who sought Medina-Perez. They’re both charged with obstruction of justice, aiding and abetting; obstruction of a federal proceeding, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to obstruct justice. MacGregor was also charged with perjury before a federal grand jury.
Medina-Perez, a twice-deported illegal immigrant with a fugitive warrant for drunken driving in Pennsylvania, had been in Joseph’s courtroom in order to be arraigned on drug charges, the Boston Globe previously reported.
ICE issued a detainer on Medina-Perez, a written request to hold an individual wanted for deportation for up to 48 hours, and had an agent waiting in the lobby of the courthouse to detain Medina-Perez after the arraignment, officials said. But during the hearing, Joseph asked Medina-Perez’s attorney “ICE is going to get him?,” according to courtroom recordings obtained by the Boston Globe in December and released in court documents on Thursday.
His lawyer was also heard telling Joseph “ICE will pick him up if he walks out the front door. But I think the best thing for us to do is clear the fugitive issue and release him on a personal, and hope that he can avoid ICE…That’s the best I can do.”
“What if we detain him?” the judge asked before requesting the clerk to turn off the courtroom’s audio recorder, leaving the next 58 seconds unrecorded.
Minutes later, Medina-Perez’s attorney said his client “has some property downstairs” and needed to speak to an interpreter, which Joseph allowed.
MacGregor then used his security access card to escort Medina-Perez out of the courthouse without being seen by the ICE agent, court documents stated.
“With the recorder off, defendant Joseph and the Defense Attorney discussed devising a way to have [Medina-Perez] avoid being arrested by the ICE officer,” court documents stated.
Joseph was appointed Newton District judge by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in 2017 after several years serving as a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor, the Boston Globe reported.
After reports of Joseph’s alleged intervention emerged in December, Baker told reporters he believed Joseph should be benched while the incident was investigated.
“I don’t believe she should be hearing criminal cases until that federal case is resolved,” Baker said about Joseph. “Look, judges are not supposed to be in the business of obstructing justice. And as far as I can tell, based on the facts as they were presented, she clearly violated the court’s own policies with respect to the way they’re supposed to handle continuance and involve federal immigration enforcement.”
Medina-Perez’s freedom was short-lived. He was arrested a month later after the court hearing and again let go, this time by an immigration judge who freed him on bond, the Boston Globe reported. That case is currently pending, officials said. The 38-year-old native of the Dominican Republic had been previously deported in January 2003 and June 2007, ICE said. His real name is Oscar Manuel Peguero, although he goes by several aliases.