The indictment of a Massachusetts judge for allegedly helping a man elude an Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agent reverberated around the political landscape Friday, as several prominent Massachusetts Democrats called the obstruction of justice charges politically motivated.
US Representative Joseph P. Kennedy on Thursday evening said the indictment of Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph and a retired court officer “threatens the safety of our community and the independence of our justice system.”
“There are appropriate avenues to handle concerns and complaints about judicial conduct and this indictment is not one of them,” he said.
A spokesperson for US Senator Edward J Markey on Friday also condemned the indictment.
“This indictment is an unwarranted intrusion by the Trump Justice Department into Massachusetts state affairs, driven by politics and reflecting its anti-immigrant hysteria. This is a matter more appropriately left to the state judiciary and law enforcement,” Giselle Barry said in a statement to the Globe.
Shortly after the charges were announced Thursday, Attorney General Maura Healey called the indictment “a radical and politically motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts.”
“I am deeply disappointed by US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s misuse of prosecutorial resources and the chilling effect his actions will have,” she said in a statement.
A federal grand jury in Boston on Thursday indicted Joseph and Wesley MacGregor, a now-retired state court officer, on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant evade an ICE officer who had appeared at the courthouse to detain him last year.
Lelling defended the indictment in a press conference Thursday.
“This case is not about immigration,” Lelling said. “It is about the rule of law. . . . This case is not intended as a policy statement, at least not beyond making the point that the laws have to apply equally even if you’re a state court judge.”
Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican who appointed Joseph in November 2017, said he believed the allegations were serious enough to warrant the federal investigation.
Baker called for Joseph’s removal last December, when the Globe first reported that she was being investigated by a federal grand jury.
“I said at the time of these incidents, I was disturbed by them,” Baker said. “I still am.”