UPDATE 1/4/22: Louisiana judge Michelle Odinet resigned from her position on Dec. 31.
“I take full responsibility for the hurtful words I used to describe the individual who burglarized the vehicles at my home,” Odinet wrote in her resignation letter. “I am sorry for the pain I have caused my community and ask for your forgiveness as my words did not foster the public’s confidence and integrity for the judiciary.”
Her resignation comes just a week after New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams ordered his civil rights division to review all the cases Odinet prosecuted during her tenure as an assistant district attorney from June 1991 to November 1993.
A viral video of the family of a Louisiana judge enthusiastically calling Black people the n-word and “roaches” has prompted local civic groups to demand her resignation.
But, conveniently, Lafayette City Judge Michelle Odinet, a Republican, has an excuse: She can’t remember a thing.
The video captured on what appears to be a cell phone, shows surveillance footage of an attempted burglary that took place over the weekend, according to Odinet. Voices on the video can be heard having a great time laughing and spewing racial stereotypes and slurs.
“And mom’s yelling ‘n*****, n*****,” a male can be heard saying while describing the surveillance video.
“‘Ken we have a n*****, it’s a n*****,’ like a roach,” a female can be heard laughing in reply.
In the two-minute video, the names Ken and Kenny are mentioned twice by two different people. The second time, Kenny is used to reference someone who was “just standing there” when the suspect is tackled. While it can’t be confirmed who “Kenny” is, it’s worth pointing out that Judge Odinet is married to a man named Kenneth Odinet. The couple has two sets of twins.
At least two of the people heard talking in the video clearly use the slur, but the video doesn’t show who exactly, and only shows what the group of people are watching.
The suspect, who is Black, was arrested and charged with two counts of burglary, according to the Lafayette Police Department.
Judge Odinet did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment, but in her statement to The Current, she acknowledged the video was recorded in her home and apologized for its content. She said that the incident that is seen in the video left her family terrified even after the encounter.
However she didn’t clarify who used the racist slurs, nor did she confirm if any of those voices are her own.
“Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives,” the judge told the outlet. “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.”
Local organizations, such as the Lafayette NAACP and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus say Odinet should step down from her post, which she was elected just over a year ago.
“This insensitivity is dangerous as she oversees a vast amount of cases in her judiciary,” Ted James, a state representative and Chairman of the Black Caucus, told VICE News in an emailed statement. “It doesn’t matter that she was in her private capacity, as a black robe can never hide what’s obviously in her heart.”
In addition to a review of all cases Odinet oversaw during her short time as a judge, James said that the caucus plans to file a formal complaint with the Louisiana Judiciary Commission, asking that they immediately remove her from the bench.
“I have never met Judge Odinet, only heard her voice in campaign ads, but because she has confirmed that the video was in fact taken inside her home,” NAACP president Michael Toussaint said in a statement to local CBS affiliate KLFY. “One would think that as a sitting judge, a mother, a community leader, a person in a position of authority, that she would have stepped up and taken a stand against that type of language in her own home.”
The Louisiana Democrats also called for her resignation.
“Judges are supposed to be the custodians of our laws, those entrusted to make decisions through fair lenses,” a statement from the organization said. “Odinet has demonstrated that she is not capable of this.”
The Louisiana Judiciary Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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