Judge Accused of Helping Immigrant Escape ICE Through Court Back Door Sees Pay and Benefits Restored

A Massachusetts judge who was suspended in April over allegations she helped an immigrant escape immigration authorities by sneaking him out a courthouse back door is set to have her pay restored, as her own case continues to play out in court.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Judicial Court said it had revised an April order stripping Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph of her pay and benefits, allowing the judge to return to the payroll while her case continues.

The high court refused, however, to allow the judge to return to work on administrative duties.

As Newsweek had reported in December, Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph had been accused of helping defendant Jose Medina-Perez escape U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents during a court hearing.

Medina-Perez, a twice-deported immigrant, had been in court to face drug charges, according to The Boston Globe, which first broke the story. However, he also had an ICE detainer on his record.

An ICE detainer is essentially a written request from the federal immigration agency asking that local jail or other law enforcement detain an individual for up to 48 hours after their release in case ICE wants to take them into federal custody. Compliance with ICE detainers, unlike federal warrants, is voluntary.

According to the Globe, Medina-Perez's defense attorney had asked Joseph to approach the bench, raising the alarm that at least one agent was present in the courthouse, waiting to detain Medina-Perez.

Shortly after that conversation, the man was allegedly escorted downstairs, released from custody and allowed to leave the courthouse through a back door, evading ICE.

The Supreme Judicial Court's decision to reinstate Joseph's pay and benefits comes after the judge's lawyers argued that the decision to suspend her pay undermined the presumption of innocence in her case.

Joseph has pleaded not guilty to obstructing justice in the incident, while her lawyers have argued that the case against her is politically motivated.

However, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has been outspoken in condemning the judge over her alleged actions, with his office asserting in a statement sent to CBS Boston on Tuesday that "no one should obstruct federal law enforcement officials trying to do their jobs."

"Governor Baker believes Judge Joseph should not hear cases until the federal case is resolved," the statement asserts, adding that the governor has pushed for legislation allowing court officials, as well as law enforcement, to "work with federal immigration officials to detain dangerous individuals."

Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has called on court officials to remove a Newton District Court judge (not pictured) from presiding over criminal cases, as a federal grand jury investigates whether she helped a defendant flee from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. iStock/Getty