CrimeSuspended Newton judge declined plea deal that would have meant no criminal charges
Judge rejects request for judge outside Cook County to decide on special prosecutor for Jussie Smollett case
A Cook County judge on Friday swatted down a request that a judge from outside the county make the decision whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the abrupt dismissal of charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett. During a long and sometimes testy hearing, Judge Michael Toomin rejected the request by Sheila O'Brien, a former state appellate judge, saying she had failed to show that Cook County judges would be too prejudiced to make the decision.
Suspended Newtonturned down a deal that would have allowed her to avoid prosecution — and possibly preserve her career — if she admitted that she an undocumented immigrant , according to several people briefed on the federal prosecutor’s offer.
US Attorney Andrew Lelling had offered Joseph a “deferred prosecution agreement” under which she would not have been indicted and, in a year, as long as she didn’t repeat the conduct, prosecutors would abandon the obstruction of justice charges, according to the people familiar with the deal.
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But Joseph refused to admit she violated federal law and now faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison if convicted of obstruction of justice.
“Our client has pleaded not guilty because she is not guilty,” said Joseph’s lawyer, Thomas Hoopes.
The US Attorney’s office declined to comment on the plea offer, which legal experts say is extremely rare.
Opinions on whether Joseph should have accepted the deal varied depending on a person’s view of the original indictment.
Just a few months after Governor Charlie Baker appointed her as a district court judge in the fall of 2017, Joseph was thrust into a national debate over illegal immigration when she allegedly helped an undocumented immigrant duck out a back door of the courthouse to elude an ICE agent who was waiting for him.
Kenneth Betts plea deal in LMPD sex abuse case rejected by judge
Kenneth Betts, a former Louisville Metro police officer, pleaded guilty to federal enticement and child pornography charges in December 2018. Betts and the government reached a deal, calling for him to serve 10 to 15 years in prison, but Hale noted in a hearing two weeks ago that federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of 27 years. With the plea agreement rejected, Betts will now need to decide whether to withdraw his guilty plea and possibly strike a new deal with prosecutors or stick with his plea and face a possible harsher sentence by Hale. © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc.
Joseph, 51, who has been on unpaid suspension since, has been defended by retired judges and Attorney General Maura Healey, who accused Lelling of prosecutorial overreach, while others criticized Joseph, saying her job is to enforce the law, not help others violate it.
If Joseph had accepted the deal, it is unclear if she could have kept her job as a judge or her license to practice law, according to state law.
The Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct could recommend the Supreme Judicial Court impose sanctions including suspension or private or public reprimand. However, even the SJC cannot force a judge to step down. Only the Legislature and governor can force a judge off the bench, either though a bill calling for the judge’s removal that must be signed by the governor and the Governor’s Council, or through an impeachment trial before the Senate.
Lawyers for accused Tree of Life shooter seek plea deal
Lawyers for accused synagogue shooter Robert Bowers said Thursday they are seeking a plea deal that will spare their client the death penalty. Judy Clarke, one of the lawyers, told U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose at a routine conference that the defense team is seeking a plea. The move is not unexpected. Prosecutors said that the Justice Department is still reviewing the case for death penalty approval. Mr. Bowers is accused of gunning down 11 parishioners at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill on Oct. 27. About a third of the 63 federal crimes of which he is charged carry the death penalty. Mr. Bowers didn't appear at the meeting.
Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel and chief operation officer for the Massachusetts Bar Association, a lawyers lobbying group, believes Joseph would have put her legal career in jeopardy had she accepted the plea deal.
“Though at first it might appear to be an attractive offer, upon reflection it could present some very serious and harsh consequences down the line,” said Healy, whose group has expressed concern about the indictment.
The Commission on Judicial Conduct could recommend removing her from the bench, he said, an action that would likely trigger a review of her alleged conduct by the state Board of Bar Overseers.
“There is a great likelihood that she could lose her ability to practice law” had she accepted the deal, Healy said.
But former Massachusetts US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, who has said Lelling made the right call in charging Joseph, said the judge should have agreed to the offer.
“Based on the facts, that was an extremely generous offer on the part of the government,” he said. “I’m shocked she didn’t take it. She would have avoided an indictment. She would have avoided a trial. She would have avoided the potential of being found guilty.”
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The offer also undercuts the notion that Lelling was determined to incarcerate a sitting judge for political reasons, Sullivan said.
“Anybody who knows Andrew Lelling or has had the opportunity to work with Andrew Lelling knows he’s not a zealot,” Sullivan said. “He’s always approached matters in a fair and balanced way.”
Retired Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine Hines, who has been critical of the indictment, said she understood why Joseph would turn down such a deal.
“The fact that she denied it makes sense to me if her position is that the indictment is not true,” Hines said. “Just like any other defendant who would say, ‘Well yeah, that’s nice of you to want to offer me a plea but I’m not guilty.’”
The near-unprecedented nature of the case — a sitting judge indicted for criminal behavior — makes it unclear if Joseph would loose her job as a judge or even her law license, Hines said. The last time a Massachusetts judge was criminally sentenced was in 1787 when Judge William Whiting was found guilty of seditious libel for defending the farmers who led Shays Rebellion. He was sentenced to seven months in jail and lost his judgeship.
“If [Joseph] admitted that she committed acts which would be criminal, I think that would open her up to impeachment or the [Commission on Judicial Conduct] could take action against her,” Hines said. “This is extraordinary so I don’t know that anybody has a script that they can follow on this.”
After striking down first deal, judge sentences LMPD officer in Explorer case
Shortly after rejecting one deal, a federal judge has accepted a new deal in a sex abuse case involving a former Louisville Metro officer. Brandon Wood is one of two officers charged accused of sexually abusing minors while participating in LMPD's Youth Explorer Program. Wood pleaded guilty to enticement earlier this year in exchange for five years behind bars. A federal a judge struck down his deal without explanation. A new deal was then presented and Wood was sentenced to 70 months in prison. A week ago, a federal judge rejected a plea deal for the other officer accused in the scandal, Kenneth Betts. The judge said he found the deal too lenient.
Short of impeachment, court officials can also put pressure on judges to step down. Last year, Pittsfield judge Thomas H. Estes resigned after the state’s highest court assigned him to paid administrative duties following his admission that he had sex with a clinician who worked in his court.
Last month, a federal grand jury in Boston indicted Joseph on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly helping Jose Medina-Perez, a Domincan national who had entered the country illegally three times, flee from the courthouse last year. Wesley MacGregor, a retired court officer who allegedly helped the defendant sneak out, was also indicted — charged with lying to the grand jury investigating the incident.
The unusual charge against a sitting judge infuriated immigration advocates and attorneys, who called it “politically motivated,” but it was praised by supporters of tougher immigration laws.
“This case is not about immigration,” Lelling said at a news conference. “It is about the rule of law. . . . This case is not intended as a policy statement, at least not beyond making the point that the laws have to apply equally even if you’re a state court judge.”
Andrea Estes can be reached at. Maria Cramer can be reached at . Shelley Murphy can be reached at .
Ex-Brevard assistant state attorney faces stalking, extortion charges.
Patrick James Landy Jr. was charged with extortion in addition to aggravated stalking, court records show. Landy, 27, of Melbourne worked with the state attorney’s office from June 2017 until Jan. 22. The judge issued an arrest warrant Wednesday set a $10,000 pending the first court appearance and ordered Landy to have no contact with the victim, the victim’s family or former roommate, records show. Brevard County sheriff’s investigators determined that between October 2018 and May 2019, Landy was targeting a victim through stalking and extortion.
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