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Newton judge to return to court May 30 on charges of helping immigrant to elude ICE officer

ICE agent was in courthouse. Did judge and others help man flee?
Minutes into the Newton District Court hearing for Jose Medina-Perez, his defense attorney asked the judge if he could approach the bench for a quick chat. (Video: Anush Elbakyan/Globe Staff)

The obstruction of justice case pending against suspended Newton District Court Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph for allegedly helping an undocumented immigrant elude an ICE agent will return to federal court in Boston in a month, records show.

On Tuesday, an entry in the court docket in the case against Joseph and now-retired Court Officer Wesley MacGregor said an initial status conference will be held in US District Court in Boston on May 30 at 10:15 a.m. in Courtroom 23.

Last week, Joseph and MacGregor pleaded not guilty to obstruction charges, and MacGregor also pleaded not guilty to a perjury charge for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury. The defendants are free on personal recognizance.


The state Supreme Judicial Court has suspended Joseph without pay while the case is pending.

The matter stems from a bizarre sequence of events inside Newton District Court on April 2, 2018. That’s when twice-deported Jose Medina-Perez appeared before Joseph on drug and fugitive from justice charges while an ICE agent sat in court waiting to take him into custody to begin removal proceedings.

Prosecutors said in an indictment that Joseph spoke with defense lawyer David Jellinek and prosecutor Shannon Jurgens during a sidebar conference. Jellinek and Jurgens aren’t named in the indictment. The Globe has reported they were the attorneys of record.

Prosecutors haven’t said what the Pennsylvania fugitive charge involved, but the Globe previously reported it was for a drunken driving offense.

Jurgens said she didn’t think Medina-Perez was the person wanted out of Pennsylvania, and Jellinek said ICE was convinced it had its man and would grab him if he walked out of court. the indictment said.

Joseph suggested at one point, “What if we detain him,” prompting this exchange:


Jellinek: “Are we on the record?”

Joseph: “[Clerk], can we go off the record for a moment?”

Clerk: “What’s that?”

Joseph: “Are we off the record?”

Clerk: “No, we’re on the record.”

Jellinek: “Can we go off the record for a minute?”

According to the indictment, Joseph acquiesced in clear violation of court rules.

“In violation of Massachusetts Rules of Court, and at the direction of defendant Joseph, the Courtroom recorder was turned off for the next approximately 52 seconds,” prosecutors said.

The recorder went back on at 2:51 p.m., and Jellinek said “we don’t believe that this gentleman” was the actual Pennsylvania fugitive, the indictment said.

Jurgens, the indictment said, added that “with the information that I have I don’t think that there is enough tying him to the Pennsylvania warrant,” but the “great deal of other out-of-state records — I do believe that some of them, uh, belong to this individual. But that is not what’s at issue here.”

Then Jurgens said she’d move to dismiss the fugitive count and not seek a bail amount for the drug charges, according to the indictment.

Jellinek asked that Medina-Perez be allowed to retrieve his property “downstairs” and also speak with him and an interpreter there, records show. When the clerk said the ICE agent also wanted to visit the lockup, Joseph replied, “I’m not gonna allow them to come in here,” the indictment said.

Medina-Perez was released, and MacGregor, who’s now retired and who’s also charged in connection with the case, “used his security access card to open the rear sally-port exit and released [Medina-Perez] out the backdoor at approximately 3:01 p.m.,” the indictment said.


That happened unbeknownst to the ICE agent who was still waiting in the lobby to apprehend Medina-Perez. The subterfuge was criminal, according to prosecutors, and it started earlier when the recorder was turned off during the sidebar conference.

“With the recorder off, defendant Joseph and [Jellinek] discussed devising a way to have [Medina-Perez] avoid being arrested by the ICE Officer,” the indictment said. “After ordering [Medina-Perez’s] release, defendant Joseph ordered that [Medina-Perez] be returned downstairs to the lockup for [Jellinek] to ‘further interview’ [Medina-Perez], which, in reality, was a pretext to allow [Medina-Perez] to access the rear sally-port exit in order to avoid the ICE Officer.”

Thwarting ICE like that is a federal offense.

Joseph and MacGregor are accused of impeding “an official proceeding, namely, a federal immigration removal [of Medina-Perez] proceeding before the United States Department of Homeland Security,” the indictment said.

Jellinek hasn’t been charged and has declined to comment to the Globe.

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.