A New York judge who was accused of making racial slurs about Native Americans and blacks will receive a public reprimand, but get to keep his job.
Syracuse.com reported that the commissioner of the New York Commission on Judicial Conduct had recommended that Judge Gerald Popeo be removed from office. However, the Commission ruled this month that the Utica City Court judge would only face a censure.
The Commission found that Popeo was not being racially insensitive when he twice called a prosecutor a “cigar store Indian” in 2011 for not being more aggressive in court.
In another incident, two lawyers said that they heard Popeo refer to blacks from Upstate New York as “country n*ggers.”
But the Commission said that those claims could not be verified because three other witnesses did not hear the remarks, and Popeo denied using the slur.
“Under these circumstances, we simply cannot come to a firm conclusion as to what occurred in respondent’s courtroom on the day in question,” the Commission said. The ruling pointed out that the referee presiding over the hearing determined that the allegations were true.
One complaint said that Popeo had held a defendant in contempt for smirking, but he later dropped the charge.
“You’re standing there with a grin that I would love to get off the bench and slap off your face,” he reportedly said.
In the end, the Commission decided to reprimand Popeo, while praising him at the same time.
“While the record before us depicts a judge who holds defendants and lawyers to exacting standards of courtroom behavior and is quick to lecture them for perceived displays of disrespect…respondent’s own behavior fell short of the required standards,” the ruling observed.