ALBANY -- A North Country town justice has resigned from his post after state watchdogs determined he shared a provocative image of a noose on Facebook along with an edited version of a campaign slogan used by President Donald Trump, officials said Tuesday..
Kyle Canning, according to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, had served as a town justice for Altona in Clinton County since 2018. Canning resigned from his office after the state agency initiated an investigation and confronted him with a complaint in May.
Canning, commission administrator Robert Tembeckjian said, shared a meme that included a photograph of a noose in February 2018.
Inside the frame of the graphic were the words: "IF WE WANT TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN We WILL HAVE TO MAKE EVIL PEOPLE FEAR PUNISHMENT AGAIN."
Canning, 29, submitted his resignation letter to Altona Town Supervisor Larry Ross June 27, expressing regret for causing "inconvenience and hardship" to the town's remaining judge and to the community.
"I feel as though, due to my current financial situation and obligations to my family, I am being coerced into resigning," Canning wrote.
But Tembeckjian said Canning made an unwise decision when he posted the noose image on his personal Facebook page.
“The noose is an incendiary image with repugnant racial connotations," Tembeckjian said in a statement..
Contacted by CNHI Tuesday, Canning said it did not occur to him that the noose was an image that some would find racially offensive.
Noting he is saddled with student loans, a house mortgage and the financial responsibilities from being the father of two children, Canning said he could not afford to hire a lawyer to represent him at the commission's offices in New York City.
"I can't make my financial situation worse for my family," he said.
"It blows my mind that they could accuse me of things when in the judicial realm everything I did in court was recorded," Canning said. "There is plenty of evidence in those recordings - if anyone had taken the time to look - as to how I conducted myself in the courtroom."
Canning had worked this past summer as a temporary teacher at Franklin Correctional Facility. His last day of service was Aug. 31 according to the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
He said he viewed the Facebook post was intended to send a message that he supports capital punishment. He also noted he is a Democrat, who does not support Trump despite the fact the meme included part of the Trump slogan "Make America Great Again."
Ross said he was disappointed the commission "came down as hard as it did on Kyle. He did a very good job for the town. There are a lot worse things going on with our government and no one is doing anything about those things."
"What's going to happen is that nobody is going to run for these jobs," Ross added.
Canning, as a town judge, earned less than $7,000 yearly from the part-time post, the supervisor said.
Altona, with a population of about 2,900 people, is just south of New York's northern border with Quebec.
Ross said he did not view the allegedly offensive social media post as racist just because the image was of a noose.
"Indians, white people, Asians, they've all been hung," Ross said. "That's why I didn't think anything of it" when Canning shared the meme on Facebook.
Tembeckjian told CNHI that Canning, was presented with several options when he was served with a commission complaint in May, including offering his resignation or contesting the allegation against him. Canning ultimately agreed to give up his judicial job.
Tembeckjian acknowledged it was the image of the noose that was the deciding factor in prompting the commission to move against Canning.
"It is the very antithesis of law and justice, Tembeckjian said.
"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.”
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org