Sat, Apr 27, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Massachusetts judge, officer face federal charges for blocking immigration arrest

Reuters, BOSTON

US federal prosecutors on Thursday charged a Massachusetts judge and court officer with conspiracy and obstruction, saying that they blocked an US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer from arresting an illegal immigrant at a court proceeding last year.

The move marks the latest skirmish over immigration between US President Donald Trump’s administration and local governments that have resisted his crackdown.

The state’s Democratic attorney general called the charges “politically motivated.”

The charges target 51-year-old Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Joseph and 56-year-old Massachusetts Trial Court Officer Wesley MacGregor.

They focus on a hearing in April last year in Newton District Court, outside Boston, where an ICE officer intended to arrest an unidentified, suspected illegal immigrant from the Dominican Republic facing a drug charge.

They described a huddled conversation between the judge and the defendant’s lawyer in which Joseph asks: “ICE is gonna get him?” and later says: “I’m not gonna allow them to come in here.”

She then arranged for the suspect to be released through the court’s rear door while the ICE agent waited in the courtroom’s lobby for him to emerge.

US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling, a Trump appointee, said that the case was not intended to send a political message.

“We did not bring this case in response to the public debate over immigration enforcement,” he said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey rejected that assertion.

“Today’s indictment is a radical and politically motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts,” Healey said in a statement.

Representatives of the judge and court officer did not respond to requests for comment.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court suspended Joseph without pay, but said that its move “in no way reflects any opinion on the merits of the pending criminal case.”

The charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The suspect has since been caught and is now in federal custody.

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