A Massachusetts judge reportedly allowed an immigrant who was in court on drugs charges, and what appeared to be a Pennsylvania warrant for drunk driving, to leave through the back door to avoid immigration enforcement officers who had arrived to arrest him.
Shelley Joseph, a judge in the suburbs of Boston, is reportedly being investigated by a federal grand jury over claims she helped the man – Jose Medina-Perez – escape arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff.
The incident is said to have happened in April, when Mr Medina-Perez was appearing before Judge Joseph’s court after being arrested on drug charges. Mr Medina-Perez was ordered to reappear before the court on the drugs charges in May, and then allowed to leave.
The Boston Globe said the Dominican defendant had already been deported from the United States twice before.
In the audio recording of the courtroom, Judge Joseph can be heard saying ICE “is going to get him” and “I’m not going to allow them to come in here” before telling a clerk to turn off the recording.
There is then a 58-second gap before the recording begins again. The newspaper quotes two anonymous sources who claim Mr Medina-Perez was then released from custody and let out of the back door of the courthouse.
He scaled a fence and ran away as ICE agents, who had arrived at the Newton District Court to detain him, chased after him, according to the newspaper.
According to the Globe, which obtained audio of part of the conversation:
“ICE is going to get him,” the judge told the attorneys during the April 2 sidebar conversation. “What if we continue [the case]?” she suggested, before instructing a clerk to turn off the courtroom’s audio recorder. Whatever was said during the next 58 seconds went unrecorded.
Minutes later, Medina-Perez was escorted downstairs, released from custody, and allowed out a back door, according to two people briefed on the episode. He scaled a fence and took off, leaving the immigration agent behind, the people said.
Gov. Charlie Baker is calling for a Newton judge to be removed from the bench amid a reported federal investigation into the judge’s actions.