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Prosecutors decided to drop the case against Joseph after she agreed to refer him to a state agency investigating allegations of misconduct by jury members.

District Judge Newton Shelley Joseph leaves federal court on April 25, 2019. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

BOSTON (AP) – Federal prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges against a Massachusetts judge accused of helping a man who lived in the US illegally evade an immigration agent, officials said Thursday.

Prosecutors decided to drop the case against District Judge Newton Shelley Joseph after agreeing to refer the matter to a state agency investigating allegations of misconduct by members of the jury.

“I have come to the conclusion that the interests of the justice system are best served by having this case heard by the Massachusetts State Court Judge Oversee, not by continuing federal criminal prosecution.” – Rhode Island US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha said in a statement sent by e-mail. “Requiring Judge Joseph to refer to the Massachusetts Judicial Committee and make certain factual admissions will ensure that a review is conducted.”

Cunha was assigned to oversee the case after Massachusetts Attorney Rachael Rollins withdrew. In her previous role as Suffolk County District Attorney, Rollins was involved in a lawsuit to block federal authorities from making arrests in courts of people suspected of being illegally in the country.

Joseph and a court officer were charged in 2019 with obstruction of justice over allegations that they planned to let a man sneak out through the back door of the court after questioning on drug possession allegations.

The prosecution of a sitting judge sparked the outrage of many in the legal community, who found the case brought under the Trump administration politically motivated.

Prosecutors dropped all charges against Joseph and three charges against former attorney Wesley MacGregor. Prosecutors reached an adjournment agreement with MacGregor on the remaining perjury charges, which means prosecutors will dismiss the charge if he complies with certain obligations.

Joseph’s lawyers said the judge “insists on his innocence” but “has agreed to refer the matter to the Massachusetts State Judiciary Commission and will participate fully in any reviews the Commission deems appropriate.”

“It was an overtly political indictment, blindly grounded in the prosecution’s ambitions,” lawyer Thomas Hoopes said in an emailed statement.

Authorities said an immigration agent was in the courtroom to detain the man when he appeared in Newton’s court in April 2018. The Dominican was deported twice and was unable to enter the US until 2027, prosecutors said.

Authorities say Joseph’s official asked the agent to leave the courtroom and told him that the suspect would be released into the court hall. Instead, prosecutors said that after the trial, MacGregor had brought the accused downstairs to the jail and released him through the back door. The man was caught by immigration officials about a month later.

Under the contract, Joseph pleaded guilty to certain facts that will now be examined by a judicial commission.

In a statement made to the court, Joseph agreed that he knew the immigration officer was waiting to take charge of the accused in court. The statement said Joseph instructed a court clerk to turn off the recording device while the defense attorney, prosecutor and judge were talking about the accused.

During this conversation, the defense attorney asked Joseph to let his client go downstairs, the statement said. When the judge returned to the court record, the attorney asked if he and his client could come downstairs with an interpreter so they could talk, and Joseph agreed, according to the statement.

Shortly after they went downstairs, the court clerk opened the door, allowing the man to escape.

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