Louisiana judge who used racial slurs in video resigns

A Louisiana judge who could be heard on a video using a racial slur while viewing security footage of a foiled burglary outside his home has resigned, according to his attorney and a letter from the judge.

“I take full responsibility for the hurtful words I used to describe the person who robbed the vehicles in my home,” wrote Justice Michelle Odinet, of the Lafayette City Court, Louisiana, in a letter dated Friday to the Chief Justice. of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

“I am sorry for the pain I have caused to my community and I beg your forgiveness as my words did not promote public confidence and the integrity of justice,” she wrote.

Ms Odinet said she was stepping down “after much thought and prayer, and in order to facilitate healing within the community.”

In the video, off-camera people inside the judge’s home can be heard repeatedly using racial slurs and laughing as they recount footage from security cameras of someone trying to break into a room. car on December 11.

The word “mom” is used repeatedly in the clip, and at least two people in the room identify themselves as part of the security footage, helping to stop the burglary. Ms Odinet’s attorney, Dane S. Ciolino, later confirmed that she used a racial slur in the video, which did not show the faces of people speaking.

After an unknown person released the video to local media, civic groups, including the Lafayette branch of the NAACP, called on the judge to resign, and defense attorneys asked the judge to recuse himself.

Mr Ciolino admitted on Friday that the video footage raised understandable concerns about Ms Odinet’s impartiality as a judge.

“There would never be a situation where African Americans would appear before her and not file recusal motions,” Ciolino said.

“She understands that she is finished being a judge, but she is only just beginning her efforts to try to win forgiveness from her community,” he added. “She knows it’s going to be long. “

In an earlier statement, Ms Odinet confirmed to The Current, a nonprofit news organization in Lafayette that reported on the video, that the footage was recorded at her home, but she did not acknowledge that she had used an insult.

She said her “mental state was fragile” from the attempted break-in and that she was “given a sedative at the time of the video”.

“I have no recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” Odinet told The Current in a statement. “Anyone who knows me and my husband knows that this is contrary to the way we live our lives. “

The local NAACP did not immediately respond to a message on Friday evening. Section president Michael Toussaint had previously said Ms Odinet was unfit for her job.

“We do not believe that a person with his disposition revealed should perform a function bearing judicial powers,” he said.

Ms. Odinet, a Republican, was elected in November 2020 judge of Division A of the municipal court of Lafayette. Municipal judges serve six-year terms. She was previously an attorney for the New Orleans and Lafayette district attorney’s offices.

Mr Ciolino said there were efforts in New Orleans to search Ms Odinet’s files for evidence of racism in the way she handled cases involving black people.

“She welcomes that,” he said, “because it would show that she has not, in practice, acted like a racist.”


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