BOSTON — Federal prosecutors in the United States have agreed to drop charges against a Massachusetts state judge accused of helping a man living in the country illegally evade a federal immigration agent, officials said Thursday.

Prosecutors dropped the case against District Judge Newton Shelley Joseph after she agreed to refer to a state agency that investigates allegations of misconduct against members of the judiciary.

“I have concluded that the interests of justice are best served by a review of the matter before the body that oversees the conduct of the Massachusetts state court rather than by a federal criminal prosecution,” said Rhode Island US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha in an email statement. “Requiring Judge Joseph to refer to the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct and make admissions of fact will ensure that a review takes place.”

Cunha was assigned to oversee the case after Massachusetts US Attorney Rachael Collins recused herself. In his previous role as a Suffolk County prosecutor, Rollins had been part of a lawsuit that sought to stop federal authorities from making arrests in court of people suspected of being in the country illegally.

Joseph and a court officer were charged in 2019 with obstruction of justice on charges that they plotted to sneak the individual out the back door of the courthouse after a hearing on charges that included drug possession.

The prosecution of a sitting judge has outraged many in the legal community, who have criticized the case brought under the Trump administration as politically motivated.

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