Actions of Judge Who Helped Illegal Alien Evade ICE Don’t Fall Under Judicial Immunity: Prosecutors

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.
October 22, 2019Updated: October 23, 2019

The federal judge who allegedly helped an illegal immigrant evade Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was not under judicial immunity, prosecutors argued in court.

Lawyers for Judge Shelley Joseph, 51, have argued that even if she did help the alien evade ICE, her actions fell under judicial immunity.

Prosecutors said during a session on Oct. 18 that they don’t agree.

“A judge does not engage in a judicial act when she participates in a scheme to obstruct a federal proceeding—regardless of whether she is sitting on the bench when she does so,” prosecutors said, reported Law360. “The court should reject Judge Joseph’s invitation to expand the doctrine of judicial immunity to unprecedented breadth.”

Prosecutors also said prosecuting Joseph would not have a negative impact on judicial independence.

Judges still have protections including “lifetime tenure, judicial immunity against civil claims for damages, and the right to be free—as all are—from vindictive prosecution.”

Joseph was indicted in April with court officer Wesley MacGregor, 56. After an illegal immigrant who had been deported twice was arrested and charged with being a fugitive from justice and possessing drugs in March 2018, Joseph and MacGregor allegedly helped the man slip out a back door to avoid an ICE officer who was in the lobby outside the courtroom. Prosecutors cited an audio recording from inside the courtroom.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at work in a file photograph. (ICE)

“The audio recording captured Joseph, the defense attorney, and the [assistant district attorney] speaking at sidebar about the defendant and the ICE detainer. Joseph then allegedly ordered the courtroom clerk to ‘go off the record for a moment.’ For the next 52 seconds, the courtroom audio recorder was turned off, in violation of the District Court rules,” the Department of Justice said in court documents.

“At 2:51 p.m., the recorder was turned back on, and Joseph indicated her intent to release the defendant. According to the charging documents, the defense attorney asked to speak with the defendant downstairs and Joseph responded, ‘That’s fine. Of course.’ When reminded by the clerk that an ICE officer was in the courthouse, Joseph stated, ‘That’s fine. I’m not gonna allow them to come in here. But he’s been released on this.’ Immediately following the proceeding, MacGregor allegedly escorted the defendant, his attorney, and an interpreter downstairs to the lockup and used his security access card to open the rear sally-port exit and release the defendant at 3:01 p.m.”

MacGregor was also charged with perjury for falsely testifying before a federal grand jury on July 12 that he didn’t know ICE agents were at the courthouse or that there was a detainer for the defendant. The ICE officer had announced his arrival hours before the release to courthouse personnel, including Joseph and MacGregor.

Joseph faces up to 30 years in prison, up to 11 years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. MacGregor faces up to 35 years in prison, up to 14 years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $500,000.

“This case is about the rule of law. 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,” United States Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

“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.”

Joseph is receiving her $181,000 salary while she’s suspended as the proceedings go forward. Joseph complained that she was struggling with her financial situation when she wasn’t getting paid while suspended, prompting the state Supreme Judicial Court to rule in her favor.

Correction: Judge Shelley Joseph has not admitted to helping the illegal alien evade capture. The Epoch Times regrets the error.