Louisiana NAACP chapter calls on judge to resign after racial slurs heard in viral video

A local NAACP leader said that Judge Michelle Odinet "cannot be trusted to make decisions [on] behalf of the Black and brown community in the courtroom."

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NAACP officials in Lafayette, La. joined the chorus of leaders Tuesday calling for the resignation of a local judge allegedly heard shouting the n-word in a video that has gone viral on social media.

The cell phone video that began circulating online over the weekend reportedly shows Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet and some of her family members watching home surveillance footage of a man being tackled in her driveway during an alleged burglary attempt that took place on Saturday, according to The Advocate and The Current.

The clip below contains offensive language.

Police have identified Robert Handy, 59, as the suspect accused of trying to break into a vehicle outside Odinet’s home, according to The Current and KLFY. He was arrested and charged with two counts of simple burglary and was still being held at the parish Jail on a total bond of $10,000 Tuesday night, online records show.

The 45-second viral clip included audio of a woman and a male repeatedly saying the n-word as they watch the suspect get taken down.

“And mom’s yelling ‘N****r! N****r!’” the male said during the video, to which a woman, local news sources said is Odinet, replied, “We have a n****r! It’s a n****r! Like a roach,” before laughing.

“The dude had a phone on him,” the woman added later in the video. “You should’ve taken his phone and stole it from him, that f***ing a**hole.”

The identity of the person who recorded the video and posted it online remains unclear.

Judge Michelle Odinet thegrio.com
Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet (Credit: Lafayette City Court)

Odinet sent an apology letter to KLFY on Monday that said she has “zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”

“I was given a sedative at the time of the video,” Odinet told KLFY. “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.”

NAACP Lafayette chapter President Michael Toussaint denounced Odinet’s alleged remarks on Tuesday, telling KLFY that, “Hate, in any form, cannot stand and must be condemned.”

“Judge Odinet, in that video, showed everyone how she deals with African Americans and people of color, and therefore she cannot be trusted to make decisions [on] behalf of the Black and brown community in the courtroom,” Toussaint said. “As a matter of fact, every decision that she has made to date concerning people of color should be rescinded.”

Robert Handy thegrio.com
Robert Handy, 59, has been charged with two counts of simple burglary (Credit: Lafayette Parish Sheriff)

Toussaint was one of the latest local officials to condemn Odinet and call for her to resign. Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory told WLFY on Tuesday that he was “disgusted and appalled” by reports of the judge’s comments.

“This type of language is hurtful, divisive, and unacceptable,” Guillory told the news station in a written statement. “The fairness and objectivity of our courts are the foundation of our legal system. It is my hope that the judge will do what is best to help the community heal and move forward.”

Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Katie Bernhardt told KLFY on Monday that the judge’s remarks were “absolutely appalling”.

“There is no room for racism on the bench,” Bernhardt told the news outlet. “Fairness and impartiality cannot coexist with racism; Lafayette needs a new Judge.”

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