How did the Mass. judge allegedly break the law?
Thursday’s indictment of suspended Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant evade ICE custody rocked the legal establishment, while prompting ecstatic cheers on the right and howls of protest on the left.
So what exactly are the elements of her alleged crime?
Here’s what federal prosecutors say went down in her courthouse on April 2, 2018, when twice-deported Jose Medina-Perez appeared before her on drug and fugitive from justice charges while an ICE agent sat in court waiting to take him into custody to begin removal proceedings.
Court papers don’t specify what the Pennsylvania fugitive charge involved, but the Globe has reported it was for a drunken driving offense there.
At Joseph’s direction, a clerk told an ICE agent seated in the courtroom to wait outside, contrary to Department of Homeland Security policy, the indictment says. The clerk told the agent that Medina-Perez would come into the lobby if he was released.
So that’s where the agent stayed, but Medina-Perez never showed.
His case was recalled shortly before 3 p.m., and Joseph spoke with defense lawyer David Jellinek and prosecutor Shannon Jurgens during a sidebar conference.
The indictment provides a transcript of what was discussed, without identifying Jellinek and Jurgens by name. The Globe has previously reported they were the attorneys handling the case.
According to the transcript, Joseph said she was aware ICE was in the building. Jurgens said she didn’t think Medina-Perez was the person wanted out of Pennsylvania, and Jellinek said ICE was convinced it had their man and would grab him if he walked out of court.
Joseph suggested at one point, “What if we detain him,” prompting this exchange:
Jellinek: “Are we on the record?”
Joseph: “[Clerk], can we go off the record for a moment?”
Clerk: “What’s that?”
Joseph: “Are we off the record?”
Clerk: “No, we’re on the record.”
Jellinek: “Can we go off the record for a minute?”
According to the indictment, Joseph acquiesced in clear violation of court rules.
“In violation of Massachusetts Rules of Court, and at the direction of defendant Joseph, the Courtroom recorder was turned off for the next approximately 52 seconds,” the indictment says.
The recorder went back on at 2:51 p.m., and Jellinek said “we don’t believe that this gentleman” was the actual Pennsylvania fugitive, records show.
Jurgens, the indictment says, added that “with the information that I have I don’t think that there is enough tying him to the Pennsylvania warrant,” but the “great deal of other out-of-state records — I do believe that some of them, uh, belong to this individual. But that is not what’s at issue here.”
Then Jurgens said she’d move to dismiss the fugitive count and not seek a bail amount for the drug charges, according to the indictment.
Jellinek asked that Medina-Perez be allowed to retrieve his property “downstairs” and also speak with him and an interpreter there, records show. When the clerk said the ICE agent also wanted to visit the lockup, Joseph replied, “I’m not gonna allow them to come in here,” the indictment says.
Medina-Perez was released, and Court Officer Wesley MacGregor, who’s now retired and who’s also charged in connection with the case, “used his security access card to open the rear sally-port exit and released [Medina-Perez] out the backdoor at approximately 3:01 p.m.,” the indictment says.
That happened unbeknownst to the ICE agent who was still waiting in the lobby to apprehend Medina-Perez. The subterfuge was criminal, and it started earlier when the recorder was turned off during the sidebar conference, according to the feds.
“With the recorder off, defendant Joseph and [Jellinek] discussed devising a way to have [Medina-Perez] avoid being arrested by the ICE Officer,” the indictment says. “ ... After ordering [Medina-Perez’s] release, defendant Joseph ordered that [Medina-Perez] be returned downstairs to the lockup for [Jellinek] to ‘further interview’ [Medina-Perez], which, in reality, was a pretext to allow [Medina-Perez] to access the rear sally-port exit in order to avoid the ICE Officer.”
Thwarting ICE like that is a federal offense.
In legal speak, Joseph and MacGregor are accused of impeding “an official proceeding, namely, a federal immigration removal [of Medina-Perez] proceeding before the United States Department of Homeland Security,” the indictment says.
Jellinek hasn’t been charged. He declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday.