A Nevada judge who told several felons to follow through on their probations so they’d be able to vote for Donald Trump in 2020 now claims her comments were meant as jokes.
Court transcripts uncovered by the Nevada Independent show that Clark County District Court Judge Susan Johnson made that suggestion to at least two defendants pleading guilty to felony charges.
“That way your civil rights would be restored and you would have plenty of time to vote for Mr. Trump on the next election, okay?” Johnson said to one defendant.
Johnson, who has served in the position since 2006, told HuffPost she was only joking with her comments and not advocating Trump over another candidate.
“My goal in sentencing is to get defendants to work hard on their probation and successfully complete it so they get back their civil rights, which includes the right to vote for president,” Johnson told HuffPost. “At this point, he’s the only declared candidate.”
Johnson said she did not perceive her comments as promoting Trump and said until the Nevada Independent article was published, no one had expressed to her any problems with the comments.
Nevada law prevents people who have been convicted of a violent felony from voting unless they get court permission.
However, the New York Daily News points out that the Nevada Judicial Code prohibits judges from allowing “family, social, political, financial, or other interests or relationships to influence” conduct.
The code also says judges shouldn’t “publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for any public office.”
Numerous criminal defense attorneys confirmed to the Nevada Independent they had heard Johnson make similar comments during sentencing hearings. Katrina Ross of the Clark County Public Defender’s Office said they were tracking the incidents.
Johnson, who has served as judge since 2006, told the Independent she was “surprised” lawyers were concerned by her comments, which were meant to put probationers “at ease.”
The judge also apologized for any offense taken from her comments.
“Looking back on it, I should have just said, ‘You can vote for the president,’” she told the paper. “Instead, I was just trying to invoke some humor and using the name of the current president.”