Off the Bench?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 15, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight. Will the state of Ohio remove Judge John Connor from the bench? Joining us from Columbus, Ohio, attorney general Jim Petro.

I have to congratulate the state of Ohio. I just got this from John Houston, the House of Representatives leader, the Speaker of the House. — And they going to look into impeaching the judge. — [That's] quick action and we applaud you. Unlike Vermont, Ohio looks like it's stepping up and doing the right thing.

JIM PETRO, ATTORNEY GENERAL: And you know, the governor and the Speaker of the House have all joined together to actually take immediate action. I'm hoping Judge Connor simply leaves the bench. There are a lot of us who really fought to keep him from being elected two years ago. And of course, with this kind of sentence, this outrageous result, I think it's important that he leave the bench because he can't be trusted to do the right thing.

O'REILLY: What is his problem? You know this guy. I mean.

PETRO: Well, you know, we've seen him for years. He's been a lenient judge. There have been circumstances in the past, but this outrage really kind of takes the cake. This man plead guilty to sexual battery of two young boys over a three-year period. That outrageous behavior deserves the punishment that the law demands. And we can't sit back and see someone not punished when this kind of behavior is acknowledged in court. He pled guilty to the crime.

O'REILLY: And then you add to the fact that this guy, Connor, let a drunk driver, repeat offender.

PETRO: Yes, I know.

O'REILLY: ...long rap sheet, out. And we had the two mothers on, a 19-year-old girl, 20-year-old boy killed by the drunk driver.

PETRO: I know.

O'REILLY: Same thing. It looks to me like Connor is arrogant in his refusal to uphold the laws of Ohio.

PETRO: There have been a variety of those, Bill, including the fact that one of our public officials, who had been convicted of gross theft in office, I was involved in it because I was the auditor of state at the time. He was let out a year early out of prison because the judge described him as a model prisoner. That type of leniency in these very high visibility cases really has no part in the criminal justice system.

O'REILLY: All right. The other question that millions of Americans have asked me, through radio and television and mail and all that, is Judge Connor in Ohio has two convictions, criminal convictions on his record for DUI.


O'REILLY: And he's got a number of other arrests, including some kind of cocaine beef. How can a judge, with that kind of a rap sheet, have authority in the state of Ohio?

PETRO: Well, he runs and he's elected to office. This is a trial judge position. Actually, all of our judges are elected in the state of Ohio. And in this case, there were many people who really sought to seek — to assure that he not be elected. And he did win election.

I actually aggressively backed his opponent in the election because I felt that his record was such that we could do better with another judge.

O'REILLY: All right. Now he's a Democrat and Columbus is a liberal county.

PETRO: Somewhat...

O'REILLY: Yes, I mean, obviously, you wouldn't put a guy like this back on the bench if it were a conservative county, would you?

PETRO: Well, you know, and he has a good name. That's the problem with the system of electing judges. When you have multiple judge races, the name Connor has become a very familiar ballot name. And it's very difficult to beat a familiar ballot name.

O'REILLY: OK. Now, as far as you're concerned, you haven't talked to Judge Connor since we broke this story.

PETRO: No, I have not.

O'REILLY: OK, so you haven't talked to him.


O'REILLY: But sure he knows that you and Governor Taft and the Speaker Houston.


O'REILLY: ...all of you guys want him out?

PETRO: Yes, exactly.

O'REILLY: And if he doesn't leave voluntarily, as you hope he will, then it looks like the state legislature's going to impeach him. And then you have the people of Franklin County, there's a petition getting up to get him out on the local level.



PETRO: And the petition process is more time sensitive...

O'REILLY: Right.

PETRO: ...because it takes a while. Forty-one thousand signatures and then a trial ensues thereafter. Far better to see a concurrent resolution by the legislature adopted by a two-thirds vote. And then he can be removed from office by act of the legislature.

O'REILLY: So that could happen in the next week or so?

PETRO: That could happen quickly if the legislature moves on it quickly.

O'REILLY: OK. Is there any way you can move him into civil court? I guess you can't, because he's elected, right?

PETRO: No, he's an elected judge.

O'REILLY: Right.

PETRO: We really have no other way. The most effective way to do it — the way you move him into civil court is the petition process. But again, 41,000 valid signatures.


PETRO: ...the collection process itself is demanding.

O'REILLY: Right. Well, you guys are doing the right thing. And we want to.

PETRO: I think so.

O'REILLY: And we want America to know that the state of Ohio has rallied. The governor, the attorney general, obviously we're talking to him right now. And John Houston, the speaker of the house, all know the gravity of the situation. And we hope you can get it done within a week or so. And we'll report back, Mr. Attorney General. We appreciate your time.

PETRO: Great, we're working on it.


PETRO: Bill, thank you very much.

O'REILLY: George, thank you.

PETRO: We're working on it.

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