In a Massachusetts district court hearing in April, a judge allegedly aided and allowed a twice-deported illegal immigrant with a criminal record to escape through the rear of the courthouse to avoid an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent waiting out front to detain and process the suspect for a third deportation.
That judge could soon be held accountable for her actions, if Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker gets his way and is able to remove her from the bench — or at least prevent her from presiding over criminal cases while her actions are investigated.
The Boston Globe reported that Baker has requested court officials temporarily sideline Newton District Judge Shelley M. Joseph while a federal grand jury looks into whether Joseph and other court workers played a role in helping a twice-deported illegal immigrant with a record and multiple aliases avoid apprehension by a waiting ICE agent.
“I don’t believe she should be hearing criminal cases until that federal case is resolved,” Baker said. “Look, judges are not supposed to be in the business of obstructing justice.”
Judge allowed criminal illegal immigrant to escape
At a court hearing on April 2, Joseph — who was appointed to the bench by Baker in 2017 — learned that an ICE agent was waiting in front of the courthouse for a defendant going by the name of Jose Medina-Perez.
After Joseph was overheard saying “ICE is going to get him,” the courtroom audio was cut off for about a minute while further conversation in a sidebar meeting ensued. Moments after that, Medina-Perez was escorted downstairs in the courthouse and was released from custody at the back door of the building, where he was witnessed scaling a fence to make his escape.
Medina-Perez had been in court on charges of drug possession and being a fugitive from justice — and he had a warrant out for him from Pennsylvania — but the warrant issue was dropped by prosecutors and the drug charge did not require he be held in custody, so he was released.
Medina-Perez, a man from the Dominican Republic whose real name is Oscar Manuel Pegeuro, was actually arrested again later in April, but released once again on bond by an immigration judge.
Refusal to cooperate with ICE
It is worth noting that numerous communities in Massachusetts, including Newton, have declared themselves to be “sanctuary cities” that either refuse to assist or actively interfere with federal immigration officials. There is an effort underway to further undermine the ability of ICE agents to do their job by prohibiting them from making arrests in or outside of courthouses.
But ICE spokesman John Mohan explained courthouse arrests are often necessary because of the “unwillingness” of local authorities to cooperate with the federal agency, and noted that individuals arrested in that fashion have typically “already taken affirmative measures to avoid detection,” thus requiring that agents wait for them outside a location at which they know they’ll eventually be present.
“ICE Officers take their responsibility for enforcement of this nation’s immigration laws very seriously and are committed to ensuring public safety,” Mohan said.
The Globe noted that it was incredibly rare for judges in the state to be held accountable by the state and are even more rarely removed from the bench, usually at most only being reassigned to administrative or civil duties.
However, what Judge Joseph is alleged to have done — aided an illegal immigrant in evading capture by ICE — is rather egregious, and hopefully, she will prove to be an exception to the rule in that she bears the full responsibility for the travesty of justice she allowed to occur in her own courtroom.