BOSTON – A Massachusetts judge was charged on Thursday for helping a man living in the US illegally sneak out the back door of the courthouse to avoid a waiting immigration service.
Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph and former court officer Wesley MacGregor were charged with obstruction of justice for having escaped the man last year following a hearing on drug possession.
The charges against Joseph and MacGregor were quickly condemned in a statement by the State Attorney General, who called for the case "a radical and politically motivated attack" in federal courts against the courts.
Lawyers, judges and advocates have criticized the government of Donald Trump for increasing immigration arrests in court buildings that disrupt the criminal justice system and deter people from the halls of justice.
Massachu US lawyer Andrew Lelling said the charges are not meant to send a message about immigration policy. He said that everyone must abide by the rule of law, even the privileged and powerful.
"From certain angles, I have heard occasionally a cry or a horror that a judge should be held accountable for violating federal law," Lelling said. "But if the law is not applied equally, it can not be credibly applied to anyone."
Joseph, 51, and MacGregor, 56, are not guilty of short appearances before the Federal Court of Boston. Joseph seemed to fight back tears as she left the courthouse.
"This charge is absolutely political, Shelley Joseph is absolutely innocent," her lawyer, Thomas Hoopes, told reporters.
An email with a request for notice was sent to a public defender for MacGregor.
Joseph, who was appointed district court in 2017, was suspended without pay, the Massachusetts Supreme Court Court said.
Authorities say an immigration officer was in the courtroom to arrest the man In April 2018, he appeared in the courthouse from Newton. The Dominican was deported twice, and until 2027 he was barred from entering the United States.
The authorities say Joseph's employee asked the agent to leave the courtroom and told him that the court would leave the hall. The suspect was released into the courtroom.
Instead, MacGregor led the defendant down to the locking system and let him out the back door, prosecutors said.
The man was corrupt About a month later, she was hired by immigration officials, Lelling said, and is currently in an immigration process.
The Trump government has resisted calls for the inclusion of courts in the list of so-called "sensitive places," which are generally free of immigration authorities. like schools and places of worship.
Immigration officers have said that communities are forcing their hand by refusing to place immigrants in local prisons and prisons in custody of immigration and customs. They also argue that arrests in the courthouse are safer for agents because people have to go through metal detectors when they enter courthouses.
Former Democratic President Barack Obama was arrested in the courthouse, but lawyers and lawyers across the country have pledged that the practice has increased Trump
MacGregor, the former court official, was also charged with perjury. Authorities say he falsely told the grand jury that he did not know that immigration agents were in the courthouse before he let the suspect out the door.
"Abuse of power has hurt us all," said Peter Fitzhugh, US special agent investigating immigration and customs at Homeland Security in Boston. "It undermines the government's core task of serving the people, it has no place in a just and accountable society." Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has accused Lelling of the charges on the grounds that the matter may have been handled by the state commission in court and the trial court.
"Today's indictment is a radical and politically motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts," Healey said in an email. "It is a fundamental principle of our constitutional system that federal prosecutors can not intervene in the functioning of state courts and their administration of justice." Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU in Massachusetts, called the case "absurd". ironic and deeply damaging to the rule of law.
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