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Federal judge rejects defense motion to dismiss obstruction charge against Newton district court judge

Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph left federal court in 2019.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph and a retired court officer lost an effort to quickly end federal obstruction of justice charges for allegedly shielding a man wanted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, a criminal case that has been denounced by retired judges and defense attorneys.

In a seven-page ruling issued Monday, US District Court Judge Leo Sorokin concluded that US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office has provided the right amount of evidence against Joseph and Wesley MacGregor needed to keep the prosecution heading toward trial.

“The motions to dismiss are DENIED because the Indictment alleges the elements of the offenses and sufficient supporting factual detail,” Sorokin wrote.


The judge and MacGregor are accused of letting a Dominican national sneak past waiting ICE agents at the Newton courthouse on April 2, 2018. The judge and MacGregor were indicted last year by a federal grand jury. Last year, the Globe published a detailed account using court records and courthouse floor plans to document how the judge and MacGregor allegedly helped the man elude federal immigration agents.

Sorokin rejected a defense motion to dismiss the case, including Joseph’s claim that she was shielded from criminal charges due to judicial immunity. Sorokin wrote that legal rules governing motions to dismiss limit him to addressing only whether a defendant has enough information from prosecutors to know the allegations against them.

“The defendants’ constitutional arguments require the assessment of disputed facts, characterizations of the events underlying the Indictment, or other evidentiary analysis,” Sorokin wrote. “Such fact-laden determinations are outside the scope of a motion to dismiss. Because the Indictment complies with the governing legal standard, neither constitutional challenge provides an avenue to dismissal.”

Joseph and MacGregor were indicted by Lelling’s office while immigration policies advanced by the Trump administration, including sending federal agents to track down undocumented immigrants at state courthouses, has drawn fire from elected officials as an overreach by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


The charges against Joseph came a year after Jose Medina-Perez, a Dominican national who had entered the country illegally three times, fled from the Newton courthouse. MacGregor, a now-retired court officer who allegedly helped him sneak out, was charged with lying to the grand jury investigating the incident.

Joseph and MacGregor have pleaded not guilty to all charges and are free pending a trial. Sorokin said he expects to set a trial date after talking with the defense and Lelling’s office.

Joseph’s defense attorney, Thomas Hoopes, declined comment on Sorokin’s decision.

John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.