Attorney General Maura Healey is speaking out against the indictment of a Massachusetts judge accused of helping a man evade ICE at a Newton courthouse, calling it a “radical and politically motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.”
In a statement Thursday, Healey, a Democrat, says she believes Lelling, a Trump appointee, is butting into an investigation that should be handled by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct and trial court, not the federal government.
“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,” she says. “I am deeply disappointed by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s misuse of prosecutorial resources and the chilling effect his actions will have.”
— Matt Stout (@MattPStout) April 25, 2019
The comments from the state’s top prosecutor follow an announcement from Lelling’s office that Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph has been indicted on one charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice and two counts of obstruction of justice. Longtime trial court officer Wesley MacGregor, who is now retired, faces the same charges as well as a count of perjury. Both pleaded not guilty at a court appearance Thursday.
The feds say that in December Joseph helped an undocumented man, identified by the Boston Globe last year as Jose Medina-Perez avoid an ICE officer who showed up at Newton District Court, where Medina-Perez was due to appear on charges of drug possession and being a fugitive from justice. He had been deported twice before, in 2003 and 2007.
In what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to help Medina-Perez avoid arrest and potential deportation, Joseph dismissed the officer from the courtroom, then allowed the defendant and his lawyer to move to a downstairs area of the building. That’s where, it’s alleged, McGregor opened a sally-port door for the defendant, allowing him to leave undetected.
Following the indictment, the Supreme Judicial Court announced that Joseph has been suspended without pay.
Before Healey’s comments, Lelling said in a statement that, “This case is about the rule of law,” adding, “The allegations in today’s indictment involve obstruction by a sitting judge, that is intentional interference with the enforcement of federal law, and that is a crime. We cannot pick and choose the federal laws we follow, or use our personal views to justify violating the law. Everyone in the justice system – not just judges, but law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defense counsel – should be held to a higher standard. The people of Massachusetts expect that, just like they expect judges to be fair, impartial and to follow the law themselves.”
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