A Louisiana judge will temporarily step down from the bench after she was caught on video dropping the N-word and calling an alleged black burglar a “roach,” according to her attorney.
Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet is resisting calls to resign but agreed to take a “period of leave without pay” after home video surfaced Monday showing her family watching home video of a foiled car burglary in their driveway.
Odinet’s voice is heard on the clip using the racial slur, attorney Dane Ciolino confirmed to the outlet. The judge’s family had been watching security footage of a Saturday burglary in which a black man, Robert Handy, was charged with two counts of simple burglary at the family’s home, KLFY reported.
The footage, first reported by The Current, a nonprofit news organization in Lafayette, makes multiple references to “mom” and her role as the burglary unfolds.
“And Mom’s yelling n—–, n—–,” a male voice says on the clip.
“We have a n—–, it’s a n—–, like a roach,” a female responds.
Odinet, who has two sets of twin children, told The Current in a statement she and her family were the victims of an armed burglary, although a police report made no mention of Handy having a weapon.
The judge said the incident “shook her to her core,” leaving her unable to sleep. She also claimed she had taken a “sedative” prior to the recording of the footage.
“I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” Odinet said in a statement. “Anyone who knows me and my husband, knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives. I am deeply sorry and ask for your forgiveness and understanding as my family and I deal with the emotional aftermath of this armed burglary.”
Calls for Odinet to resign, including from Lafayette’s NAACP chapter, began shortly after the footage started circulating Monday. Community organizers later filed complaints with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission beginning early Tuesday, The Acadiana Advocate reported.
At least one Lafayette law firm has asked Odinet to recuse herself from two of their defendants’ cases, according to the newspaper.
“As a proud black man, and the Lafayette City Marshal, I strongly believe Judge Odinet should be held accountable,” City Marshal Reggie Thomas said Tuesday of the clip.
People of color will “find it impossible” to believe they’ll be treated fairly in Odinet’s courtroom, Thomas said.
“This type of language cannot be accepted or tolerated by anyone, especially those who serve as leaders in our city,” Thomas said. “It is up to Judge Odinet to remember the oath she took, and should she remain on the bench, find a way to gain back the trust of ‘all’ of Lafayette, especially African Americans. A mere ineffectual and weak apology will not suffice.”
State Senator Gerald Boudreaux, a Democrat, said he will call on the state’s judiciary commission to look into the footage.
“This situation and the comments are reprehensible, offensive and totally unacceptable from anyone serving as a judge,” Boudreaux said in a statement Tuesday. “The comments fail to identify any form of lamentation and cast a cloud relative to the impartiality of the judge to serve as an unbiased arbitrator in cases involving African Americans.”
Odinet, a Republican who was elected to a six-year term in November, is “humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what has she done and the harm she has caused to her community,” Ciolino told The Acadiana Advocate Wednesday.
“What happens in the long-term is something she is going to think about in the weeks to come,” Ciolino told the newspaper.