Suspend Judge Suspected of Helping Illegal Immigrant Give Feds the Slip, Governor Baker Says

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Governor Charlie Baker says he wants the Massachusetts Trial Court to suspend a judge reportedly under federal investigation for possibly helping an illegal alien fugitive escape from federal immigration authorities who were about to pick him up on an immigration detainer.

Shelley Richmond Joseph, whom Baker appointed to the district court bench last year, is the subject of a federal probe, according to The Boston Globe.

“My understanding at this point is there’s a federal investigation. I found the story and the facts as they were presented troubling. And we’ll obviously await the results of the federal investigation. But I don’t believe she should be hearing criminal cases until that federal case is resolved,” Baker said during a press conference Monday, according to video published by State House News Service.

Baker said he does not regret appointing Joseph, a former criminal defense lawyer, who also worked as a state prosecutor before that, to a judgeship. But the allegations against her are serious, he said.

“It’s extremely troubling. Look, judges are not supposed to be in the business of obstructing justice,” Baker said.

Joseph had been on the bench less than six months when a case came before her at Newton District Court of a man in his 30s whom Newton police had picked up on drug charges. The man claimed he was a U.S. citizen living in Brockton. But the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said he was an illegal alien from the Dominican Republic wanted on a drunken driving charge in Pennsylvania, according to The Boston Globe.

During a sidebar this past Monday, April 2, some of which was recorded, the judge, the defense lawyer, and the prosecutor discuss the man’s case and the presence of an ICE agent in the courthouse who is ready to apprehend the man and begin deportation proceedings against him.

All three sound interested in helping the man avoid ICE.

“ICE will pick him up if he walks out the front door,” the defense lawyer says, according to the audio recording published by The Boston Globe.

“There is a detainer attached to my paperwork, but I feel like that’s separate and apart from what my role is,” the prosecutor says.

“ICE is going to get him. What if we continue …?” the judge says, before the defense lawyer asks if the audio recording is still on. A man who is taping the discussion then turns off the recording when the judge asks him about it.

Moments later, according to the Globe, the judge dismissed the Pennsylvania warrant and continued the Newton drug case, which did not require the man to be held in custody. The judge ordered the man released, and he left the courthouse by a back door, eluding federal authorities.

The Governor’s Council confirmed Joseph’s nomination as a state district court judge October 18, 2017.