The feds are moving to drop the charges in the case against Newton Judge Shelley Joseph, saying they’ve reached an agreement with the judge accused of letting an illegal immigrant out the back door to avoid ICE.
Federal prosecutors on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss the three charges against Joseph and defer prosecution of court officer Wesley MacGregor, who was charged alongside her. In exchange, they wrote, Joseph has “agreed to refer herself to the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct.”
“Judge Joseph’s actions on April 2, 2018, needlessly obscured the events surrounding the release of a Massachusetts state court defendant who was also the subject of an ICE civil detainer,” wrote Rhode Island U.S. Attorney Zachary Cunha, who’s handling the case as Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins is recused.
“Those actions contributed to the ambiguity of the factual record. But that ambiguity, any potential violations of Massachusetts state court policies, and the question of whether Judge Joseph’s actions potentially undermined public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of a state court proceeding, are, in this case, best addressed by state judicial oversight, rather than federal criminal prosecution,” Cunha added.
Joseph was charged by the office of former U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, a Trump appointee, of helping a twice-deported illegal immigrant evade federal immigrations officials. The case was highly publicized at the time and was a local flashpoint for the immigration debates of the past several years.
She is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting and obstruction of a federal proceeding and aiding and abetting. The motion to dismiss will need a federal judge’s approval to go into effect to drop those charges.
MacGregor, who was charged with perjury, already has resigned his job and has faced discipline, so, Cunha wrote, “that the deferred prosecution agreement entered with Mr. MacGregor represents a fair and balanced resolution of this matter and is likewise in the interest of justice.”
Joseph has been suspended while still now being paid $207,855 a year.
Joseph’s attorney Thomas Hoopes noted that Joseph always pleaded not guilty and maintains her innocence.
“This was a patently political indictment, blindly grounded in prosecutorial ambition,” Hoopes said, continuing Joseph’s battle with Lelling. “We are hopeful that it will result in a long deserved dismissal — which we take as full and complete exoneration.”
Lelling, now in private practice as a partner at Jones Day, said he respects “Cunha’s thoughtful decision-making here.”
But he continued, calling for the Judicial Conduct Commission to “get to the bottom of” the issue, “What the agreed factual statement carefully avoids is requiring Judge Joseph to confirm or deny that she intentionally conspired to help the defendant evade federal authorities. A federal grand jury concluded that she did, and that would be a serious, politically-motivated abuse of her position.”