Louisiana Supreme Court suspends Lafayette judge

Michelle Odinet, City Court Judge, Lafayette, Louisiana
Michelle Odinet, City Court Judge, Lafayette, Louisiana(City Court Lafayette)
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 6:05 AM CST
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UPDATE: The Louisiana Supreme Court Friday ordered a Lafayette judge off the bench without pay while it further investigates the allegations against her.

The court said that judge Michelle Odinet is “disqualified from exercising judicial functions, without salary, during the pendency of further proceedings in these matters.”

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) - Racist language heard in a video recorded at the home of a Louisiana judge has led to calls for her resignation.

The video shows a television set displaying security footage of what appears to be a foiled burglary at the judge’s home. Laughter and racist slurs are heard from the viewers — who aren’t visible on camera — as they watch two people capture the suspect.

Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet confirmed to Lafayette news outlets that the recording was made at her home. But she said she had taken a sedative at the time the video was made and does not remember it.

“I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” Odinet said.

Her statement doesn’t identify the speakers or say whether she was among those heard on the recording. It’s not clear who originally posted the video on social media. The security footage of a scene partially obscured by tree limbs appears to show at least two people capturing and holding someone.

A 59-year-old Black man was arrested after the burglary, which happened early Saturday, police said.

“That’s me,” one viewer says while watching the security footage of the man being caught. “And Mom’s yelling ‘n——-, n——-.’” Another viewer says, “We have a n-----. It’s a n-----, like a roach.”

Odinet, in her statement, said she was traumatized after an armed burglary, although police said Tuesday there was no indication the suspect was armed.

“I was given a sedative at the time of the video. I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it. Anyone who knows me and my husband, knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives,” Odinet’s statement said.

“We ask for your understanding, forgiveness, patience and prayers,” she added.

The president of the Lafayette Chapter of the NAACP, Michael Toussaint, called for Odinet’s resignation.

“I have never met Judge Odinet, only heard her voice in campaign adds. But because she has confirmed that the video was in fact taken inside her home, one would think that as a sitting judge, a mother, a community leader, a person in position of authority, that she would have stepped up and taken a stand against that type of language in her own home,” Toussaint said in a statement to Lafayette news outlets.

City Marshal Reggie Thomas, the first Black person to be elected to a citywide office in Lafayette, said Odinet should be held accountable for the video’s racist language, saying “a mere ineffectual and weak apology will not suffice.”

The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus also issued a call for Odinet to resign.

“In the event she doesn’t resign, we request that the Louisiana Judiciary Commission Immediately appoint an ad hoc judge to hear cases in her division, investigate this incident and ultimately remove her,” the group said in a news release.

Copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved.