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Louisiana Judge, Michelle Odinet, Is Urged to Resign Over Racial Slur in Video

A Louisiana judge is facing calls to resign after a video recorded at her home captured several people using a racial slur while watching home security footage of a foiled burglary outside the judge’s house.

The judge, Michelle Odinet of the City Court of Lafayette, La., said she was on a sedative at the time the video was made and had no memory of the episode.

After an unknown source released the video to the local news media, several civic groups including the Lafayette branch of the N.A.A.C.P. called on the judge to resign, and criminal defense lawyers asked the judge to recuse herself from their cases.

Judge Odinet confirmed to The Current, a nonprofit news organization in Lafayette that reported on the video on Monday, that the footage was recorded in her home.

“I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” Judge Odinet told The Current in a statement. “Anyone who knows me and my husband, knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives.”

In the minute-long video, unseen people inside the judge’s home can be heard using a racist slur repeatedly and laughing as they narrate security-camera footage — playing on a television — of a person trying to break into a car in a driveway.

The word “mom” is used a few times in the clip and at least two people in the room identify themselves as being in the security footage, helping to stop the burglary.

Judge Odinet said in the statement that her “mental state was fragile” because of the attempted burglary, and that she “was given a sedative at the time of the video.” Although Judge Odinet described the burglary as “armed,” the police report makes no mention of a weapon, according to The Current.

“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,” the judge said.

The Lafayette Police Department said that an attempted burglary took place at 2 a.m. on Saturday and that an unnamed victim held the suspect down until officers arrived. The suspect, a 59-year-old Black man, was arrested and charged with two counts of simple burglary, the police said.

Judge Odinet, a Republican, was elected in November 2020 to be the judge for Division A of Lafayette City Court. City judges serve a six-year term.

She was previously a prosecutor for the district attorney’s offices in New Orleans and Lafayette.

The Lafayette chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. called for the judge’s resignation in a statement from its president, Michael Toussaint. “We do not believe a person having her revealed disposition should fulfill any office bearing the powers over judiciary,” Mr. Toussaint said.

The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, the Louisiana Democratic Party and the Southern division of the Anti-Defamation League also called for her resignation.

Others called for accountability, but stopped short of requesting the judge’s resignation, including Reggie Thomas, the Lafayette city marshal and the first Black man elected to a citywide office in Lafayette, and State Senator Gerald Boudreaux, a Democrat.

The senator said he would officially petition for the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana to investigate the incident.

“This situation and the comments are reprehensible, offensive and totally unacceptable from anyone serving as a judge,” Mr. Boudreaux said in a statement. “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.”

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