An upstate New York town judge was forced to step down after posting a photo on Facebook of a noose with a message that contained President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced Tuesday that Altona Town Court Justice Kyle R. Canning resigned June 27, and agreed never to seek or accept judicial position “at any time in the future.”
According to the Commission, the 29-year-old judge posted the image in February 2018, just a few weeks after taking on his job, which he was supposed to hold until the end of 2021. The image features a noose, with the annotation in white capital letters, “IF WE WANT TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN WE WILL HAVE TO MAKE EVIL PEOPLE FEAR PUNISHMENT AGAIN.”
Canning removed the post from his Facebook page after receiving a formal written complaint (pdf) filed this May, saying his Facebook post “conveyed racial and/or political bias” and “failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.”
“The noose is an incendiary image with repugnant racial connotations,” said Commission Administrator Robert Tembeckjian in the statement, adding that it is “the very antithesis of law and justice” and 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.”
In his resignation letter, Canning said he was “being coerced into resigning” due to his “current financial situation and obligations to family.”
“I do formally apologize for the inconvenience and hardship that I have imposed on my co-justice and the Town of Altona,” the letter reads.
“The post was not a racist post. The whole post was pro death penalty. I am pro death penalty and it is not illegal to be pro death penalty,” Canning told New York Post. “None of that was in my mind when I shared my post. The noose was used for death penalty long before racism was ever a thing.”
Canning told the Post the commission “painted me into a corner” because he is not an attorney and earned too little to hire a lawyer to fight the charges on his behalf.
A father of two, Canning now makes a living delivering bread.