Suspended Newton District Court Judge Shelley Richmond Joseph and retired court officer Wesley MacGregor will face trial on charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice after a federal judge denied their request to dismiss the charges.
In a ruling issued Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Leo Sorokin said the the case could proceed against Joseph and MacGregor "because the indictment complies with the governing legal standard" and their constitutional challenges do not provide "an avenue to dismissal."
The pair face accusations that they helped an undocumented immigrant evade arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in April 2018 by allowing the man to exit the courthouse through a back door. More than a year later, Attorney Andrew Lelling's office charged Joseph and MacGregor with three counts of federal obstruction of justice, saying at the time that the case was not about immigration enforcement but about upholding the rule of law.
Lelling, appointed to the office of U.S. Attorney by President Trump, faced criticism by some attorneys for his decision to charge a sitting judge with a federal crime.
In arguing to dismiss the case, Joseph's attorneys said she made a lawful decision not to assist ICE, and she is shielded from prosecution by judicial immunity.
Judge Sorokin ruled that judicial immunity is not determined, saying "it is not within this Court’s province on a motion to dismiss to determine whether judicial immunity, even if its reach encompasses criminal liability, provides a viable shelter for Joseph in the circumstances alleged here."
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, issued a statement in 2019 calling the indictment a "radical and politically-motivated attack on our state and the independence of our courts."
A trial date was not yet set.