A prosecutor claims he was fired after exposing a “laughter yoga” class led by a clerk who had participants march through a courtroom and give each other Nazi-esque gun salutes.
Matthew Campbell, who worked at the Warren County Courthouse in Glens Falls, saw the bizarre scene on a security monitor in 2019 and videoed it on his cell phone.
The video shows Katherine Thompson, the Warren County Family Court clerk, performing the lunch hour exercise while walking stiff-legged and, after each salute, extending her right arm in the air in a “seig heil” motion associated with the nazis.
Campbell took the video, which violated courthouse rules on photography after his supervisor refused to do anything about the class, his attorney, James Tuttle, said.
“He just judged it was more important to document the crazy stuff he was looking at than to follow that rule,” Tuttle said.
He also sent the video to colleagues.
The case went haywire for two years, until last year someone sent the tape to Chief Judge Janet DiFiore with an email that read, “Perhaps the Warren County Family Court Clerk and her clerks shouldn’t be walking around the courtroom with goosebumps and surrender the Nazi salute. News would love this,” court records show.
But instead of Thompson being disciplined, Campbell had his gun privileges suspended and he was transferred to various courthouses.
He was fired in May and has filed a lawsuit to get his job back.
Thompson, who denied being a Nazi sympathizer during Campbell’s disciplinary hearing, said she was doing an “army laughter salute” exercise from a book on laughter yoga, a discipline that would increase joy. She did not immediately answer a request for comment.
“The event that led to his actions was a sanctioned wellness event led by and for employees in a locked courtroom. Some of the yoga practices involved marching around the room, laughing, and greeting each other,” said Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration in New York.
He said Campbell’s actions “both during and after the event were considered misconduct in relation to his position as bailiff.”