Judge Resigns After Posting Image of Noose and Trump Slogan – The New York Times
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Kyle R. Canning became a judge in the rural town of Altona, N.Y., in January 2018. Six weeks later, he posted an image of a noose in front of a black background on his Facebook page.
“IF WE WANT TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN WE WILL HAVE TO MAKE EVIL PEOPLE FEAR PUNISHMENT AGAIN,” the post shouted in large white letters at the top of the image.
The post was brought to the attention of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. In June, after an investigation into the matter was opened, Mr. Canning stepped down. By order of the commission, he agreed to never be a judge again.
The investigation was closed by the commission last week and made public on Tuesday.
Mr. Canning is not a lawyer — he delivers bread for a living, he said in an interview. Having a legal background is not required for town judges in New York State, though some specialized training is necessary before ascending to the bench.
Though the image quoted a Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” Mr. Canning, 29, said he did not read it that way when he publicly shared it to his Facebook page. He described himself as a registered Democrat and said he thought the post was supporting the death penalty, and that he did not consider its racial connotations.
“There is not a man that I could despise more than Donald Trump,” he said.
According to the government’s complaint, Mr. Canning conveyed or appeared to convey “racial and/or political bias” and “failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary” when he shared the image.
“The post was not racist. I’m not a racist guy,” he added. “I see it as pro-death penalty, pro-capital punishment. It doesn’t need to be a noose; it could have been a gas chamber. It could have been an electric chair.”
Altona is a town of about 2,900 people in northeastern New York, near the Canadian border. Its main employers are farms, the local school district, the Rainbow Banquet Hall and a correctional facility. The nearest city is Plattsburgh, about 20 miles southeast.
There are normally two justices in Altona who serve four-year elected terms. Court is held on Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to the town’s website, and deals with a range of matters including vehicle and traffic infractions and some criminal offenses.
Mr. Canning said he ran for office at the request of the town supervisor, because “they needed a judge, and it didn’t seem like anyone wanted to run.”
Like other town judges, he had five days of training in Albany before he started and then continuing education each year. He said he tried to be “fair and impartial for everyone who came in front of me.”
Mr. Canning removed the image from Facebook in August 2018, after receiving a letter from the judicial commission questioning its propriety, the complaint stated. But that was not enough.
“The noose is an incendiary image with repugnant racial connotations,” Robert H. Tembeckjian, the judicial commission administrator, said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is the very antithesis of law and justice. For a judge to use the image of the noose in making a political point undermines the integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the courts.”
Mr. Canning resigned as the investigation proceeded, he said, because he could not afford to hire a lawyer and travel to New York City to fight the complaint.
In his resignation letter to the town supervisor, he said he felt a “sense of despair” and apologized for the “inconvenience and hardship that I have imposed on my co-justice and the town of Altona.”
“It does feel pretty terrible to have offended people,” Mr. Canning said, “and not have the ability to serve the town anymore.”
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.
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