Louisiana judge to take unpaid leave after using N-word in viral video

Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet will temporarily step down from her post amid backlash from a now-viral home video.

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Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet will temporarily step down from her post and go on unpaid leave following backlash from a viral video in which she and other members of her family are captured repeatedly using the N-word after a burglary attempt at their home. 

“She is humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she’s done and the trouble she’s caused to the community,” her attorney, Dane Ciolino, said Wednesday night, per NBC News. “Tomorrow, she’s going on interim leave without pay. And as far as what’ll happen in the longer term, she’ll have to deal with that in the weeks to come.”

Michelle Odinet (above), a city court judge in Lafayette, Louisiana, “is humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she’s done and the trouble she’s caused to the community,” says her attorney, Dane Ciolino. (Photo: Screenshot/KLFY)

First reported by The Current, the video shows Odinet and members of her family watching a security video of the moment two of them wrestled 59-year-old Robert Handy to the ground in their driveway after he allegedly tried to break into one of their cars early Saturday. In the now-viral clip, they are narrating the scene, which played out at their home in Bendel Gardens. 

The voices in the video have not been fully identified, but the names “Kenny” and “Austin” can be heard. The judge, who is married to Lafayette Parish Coroner Kenneth Odinet, Jr., has two sets of twin children.

According to the police report, “When the suspect observed the victim arrive, the suspect attempted to flee on foot but was quickly caught by the victim. Victim held the suspect down until officers arrived.”

At one point, a male voice is heard saying, “And Mom’s yelling n****r, n****r,” to which another female voice responds: “We have a n****r. It’s a n****r, like a roach.” A voice says, “Lost his wallet,” as the man on screen is tackled to the ground. “That’s my phone where it fell out,” says another male voice.

“The dude had a phone on him,” a female voice chimes in, per CNN. “You should have taken his phone and stolen from him, that f**king a**hole.” “Go and get the gun,” says another voice. “It’s important, very important,” says a male voice as the video continues.

Odinet, a Republican, was elected to city court judge in Lafayette last year. She was previously a prosecutor and public defender. 

There have been calls across the nation for her to resign, including one from her local chapter of the NAACP. Others have called for every case Odinet has presided over to be reviewed. 

“::whispers:: bad police officers aren’t the only ones who need to be held accountable and are complicit in creating a biased, unfair system. It’s judges, too,” journalist Jemele Hill wrote on Twitter. 

Odinet released a statement saying she was on sedatives when the incident occurred, and claiming she has no memory of using the racial slurs. She also repeatedly referred to the incident as an “armed burglary.” However, police make no mention of Handy having a weapon in the official report. 

“I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” she said, according to The Current. “Anyone who knows me and my husband knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives.”

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