On Thursday, a Massachusetts district court judge who was indicted in April on charges she obstructed justice by allegedly helping an illegal immigrant escape from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filed a motion to have her $181,000 annual salary reinstated.
Shelley Joseph, who faces up to 20 years in prison, according to The Boston Globe, was suspended without pay by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court after the federal indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury on April 25. The court stated, “This Order is based solely on the fact that a sitting judge has been indicted for alleged misconduct in the performance of her judicial duties. It in no way reflects any opinion on the merits of the pending criminal case. The Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits all judges from making ‘any statement that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any Massachusetts court,” according to MassLive.
Federal prosecutors stated that in March 2018, ICE issued an immigration detainer against Jose Medina-Perez, an illegal immigrant who was already a fugitive from justice in a Pennsylvania drunk driving case. Newton, Massachusetts police arrested Medina-Perez on drug charges, prompting the ICE detainer. When a plainclothes ICE agent appeared at Newton District Court to apprehend Medina-Perez, according to federal prosecutors, Joseph ordered the agent to exit the courtroom and instructed that the courtroom recorder be turned off while she conversed with the defense attorney and an Assistant District Attorney regarding the detainer.
A transcript revealed Joseph inquiring, “ICE is gonna get him?” Prosecutors allege that following the conversation, Joseph ordered Medina-Perez released without bail, told Trial Court Officer Wesley MacGregor to take Medina-Perez to the downstairs lockup, all while the ICE agent was prevented from entering the courtroom. MacGregor allegedly permitted Medina-Perez to escape.
On Thursday, Joseph’s attorneys asked for her salary to be reinstated, stating, “Imposition of such a sanction prior to any determination of wrongdoing is contrary to the presumption of innocence to which Judge Joseph is constitutionally entitled,” arguing, “The court’s order regarding Judge Joseph is without precedent.”
Joseph wrote in an affidavit, “Prior to the indictment, my family was able to meet its financial expenses, but with very little room for error. Since my suspension without pay, our family income has decreased by more than half, because I had been earning more than my husband.” She added that she and her husband have “no savings other than retirement funds.”
MassLive reported, “Joseph said the only form of income she can seek as a judge is teaching or writing, noting that adjunct professors earn about $4,000 per semester. She said she contacted several schools but was told that adjunct professors have already been hired for the following academic year. ‘I now have significant legal expenses from defending the federal indictment,’ she wrote. ‘We have been able to borrow funds from family and friends to help pay part of the legal defense fees. It is unlikely, however, that any further loans will be available.’”
Medina-Perez has been apprehended; he faces an immigration hearing in July, according to ICE.