Grand Jury Probing Judge for Helping Migrant Avoid ICE, Say Feds

Newton District Court _ MassGov
Newton District Courthouse/Mass.gov

A federal grand jury is reportedly investigating a rookie Massachusetts judge after she allegedly allowed a suspected illegal alien to avoid arrest by immigration officers. The judge reportedly allowed the man to take a rear exit from a courtroom after learning federal officers were planning an arrest.

“ICE is going to get him,” the judge told a defense attorney and state prosecutor during a sidebar conversation in an April 2 court hearing. “What if we continue [the case]?” she suggested, according to a court recording published by the Boston Globe.

The sidebar conversation came up during a hearing in the Newton, Massachusetts, District Court presided over by first-year Judge Shelley M. Joseph. The case involved a suspected illegal immigrant, Jose Medina-Perez, charged with drug possession. He is also reported to be the subject of a Pennsylvania warrant for drunken driving, the Globe reported.

During the hearing, defense attorney David Jellinek asked the judge for a sidebar conversation. Under state law, all court proceedings are recorded. The court’s recorder picked up some of the sidebar conversations before the first-year judge remembered she was being recorded and instructed the court reporter to turn off the recording so she could go “off the record.”

Jellinek appears to plead the case that his client is not the suspect wanted in Pennsylvania and is actually a U.S. citizen. “ICE is convinced that this guy,” Jellinek told the judge. “ICE will pick him up if he walks out the front door. But I think the best thing for us to do is clear the fugitive issue and release him on personal [inaudible].”

The prosecutor does not appear to put up a fight against letting the man go. “There is a detainer attached to my paperwork,” the prosecutor told the judge, “but I felt like that’s separate and apart from what my role is.”

“ICE is going to get him,” the judge says in the recording. “What if we continue…”

Jellinek interrupts the judge and asks, “Are we filming?”

What sounds like a shocked gasp from a female voice can be heard in the tape and the judge says, “Larry (court reporter), can we go off the record for a moment?”

The court reporter asks, “What’s that?” and Judge Joseph responds, “Are we off the record?”

The court reporter responds, “No, ma’am.” The recording abruptly stops at that point.

The Globe reported the conversation continued for another 58 seconds after the recording stopped. A few minutes later, Medina-Perez was reportedly escorted downstairs, released from custody, and allowed to exit through a back door. He then reportedly scaled a fence and “took off, leaving the immigration agent behind,” the newspaper reported from people “briefed on the episode.”

Later that month (April), immigration officers arrested Medina-Perez in Roslindale, Massachusetts. An immigration judge freed the migrant on a bond and his case is now pending. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials say the man’s real name is Oscar Manuel Peguero, the Globe reported. ICE says he is actually a 38-year-old Dominican national who has been deported on two previous occasions – in January 2003 and June 2007.

This episode began on March 30 when Newton police officers ran the suspect’s car registration and discovered a Pennsylvania warrant for drunken driving, court records revealed. Police officers searched the vehicle during the arrest of the suspect and allegedly found a pill and two bags of what they believed to be cocaine. Medina-Perez told the officers he is 36-years-old and a U.S. citizen living in Brockton. Police also reported an additional alias of Julio Alexis Rios, they found in a federal database.

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts has reportedly convened a grand jury to investigate the district court judge who took office just six months before this incident. Prior to taking the bench, Judge Joseph served as a criminal defense attorney and a prosecutor in the state’s attorney general’s office. She also previously served on the Democratic State Committee, the Globe asserted.

The grand jury is also reported to be investigating the actions of others in the court staff as to whether they broke the law in helping Medina-Prez avoid immigration officers. The newspaper reports that several members of court staff have been called to testify before the grand jury.

Former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan told the Boston Globe that it would be “shocking” if a court official helped a defendant flee from federal authorities. He said it could be considered obstruction of justice.

“There is a big difference between doing nothing and taking affirmative steps to prevent some authority from exercising its rights,” the former U.S. attorney said.

The newspaper also stated that Judge Joseph may have violated at least two court policies. The first requires that court personnel should not help or hinder federal agents. The second requires that all court sessions be recorded, except when presided over by a clerk.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office Director Todd Lyons would not comment specifically about the investigation. In a written statement provided to Breitbart News, ERO Director Lyons said, “It would be gravely concerning to us, as well as disrespectful to the men and women of ICE who put themselves in harms’ way to protect our communities, if anyone, especially a representative of a court, were alleged to have taken deliberate actions to aid an immigration fugitive in evading the law.”

This is not the only case of a Newton District Court judge allegedly helping an illegal immigrant avoid apprehension by ICE officers. Shortly after this incident, Newton District Court Judge Mary Beth Heffernan released a man accused of rape on a bond of $2,500 after prosecutors requested a $100,000 bond and informed the judge that ICE was about to issue a detainer on the suspected illegal alien rapist, Breitbart Texas reported in May.

Instead, Newton District Court Judge Mary Beth Heffernan “insisted on $2,500 bail,” the Boston Herald reported in a scathing article.

Breitbart Texas spoke with ICE Public Affairs Officer Shawn Neudauer at the time about the judge setting the low bail.

“You mean the one who released him on purpose, knowing we were coming for him?” Neudauer expressed. He confirmed that ICE officials were working hard to confirm Baez’s identity prior to his release. Baez refused to cooperate with police during his fingerprinting process making positive identification more time-consuming, Neudauer said.

Thirty minutes after the judge released Luis Baez (aka Pedro Valetin), ICE confirmed the man’s status as an illegal immigrant, deported on two previous occasions.

Despite his violent criminal history and previous deportation, the judge ignored the prosecutor’s request for a $100,000 and set bail at $2,500. Baez’s girlfriend attended court with the suspect and “paid his bail on the spot,” Neudauer said.

Baez allegedly worked as an Uber driver and picked up a Boston College student in September. He reportedly used a fake name of “Pedro Valentin” to get the Uber job. He then allegedly drove Murray to a remote location and raped her before taking her on to her destination at Boston College. She immediately reported the alleged rape to campus police.

Baez does not appear to have been heard from since being released on the low bond.

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Border/Cartel Chronicles. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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