An attorney for the City Court judge, Michelle M. Odinet, told the Acadiana Advocate that she feels “humiliated, ashamed and sorry for what she has done and for the damage she has caused to the community,” and that she is taking leave without pay.
“What happens in the long term is something that she is going to think about in the next few weeks,” said the statement from Dane Ciolino, who confirmed the details to Citizen Free Press.
The video, which appears to show surveillance footage of an outdoor altercation with a robbery suspect, played on a television as people, who are not visible, view and comment on the images using racist language, was shared with the media communication channels in Lafayette and is now being shared widely via social media.
The Lafayette Police Department said that at approximately 2:00 a.m. Saturday, two vehicles were stolen from the driveway of a home, which records say is owned by Odinet and her husband.
The suspect tried to flee on foot, but was caught by the victim, who, according to the Police, was returning home when he saw the suspect get out of one of the vehicles in the house. The victim held the suspect until officers arrived, according to the police statement.
In the video circulating on the Internet, a male voice is heard saying: “And mom yells n *** er, n *** er.” After what appears to be a jovial joke, a female voice is heard saying, “We have a n *** er, it’s a n *** er, like a cockroach,” while laughing.
The group continues to talk back and forth, laughing at one point that someone on the surveillance video tripped over and someone else lost their wallet.
Then you hear a male voice saying, “That’s my phone where it fell.”
“The guy had a phone on him,” says a female voice. “You should have taken the phone from him and stole it, that ‘damn ** oi ** ota’.”
“Go get the gun,” says another voice. “It’s important, very important,” says a male voice as the video continues.
Multiple requests for resignation
It is unknown who recorded the video from inside the house or how it was made public.
Odinet had previously sent a statement to Citizen Free Press affiliate KATC saying that she had been “given a sedative” and that she did not recall “the video or the disturbing language used during the video.”
“My children and I were victims of an armed robbery in our house. The police were called and the assailant arrested. The incident shook me completely and my mental state was fragile. I was devastated and still cannot sleep. they were given a sedative at the time of the video. I don’t remember anything about the video or the disturbing language used during the video.”
The judge added: “Anyone who knows me and my husband knows that 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 robbery”.
The rejection was immediate. The head of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said Odinet should resign immediately.
“We now call for her immediate and uncompromising resignation, failing that, we demand swift and immediate action from the Louisiana Supreme Court Judicial Committee, removing her from her post,” said Lafayette NAACP chapter president Michael Toussaint.
The Louisiana group of black lawmakers echoed this call, saying the judge had displayed “immense racial bias and insensitivity.”
The mayor-president of the consolidated government of Lafayette, Josh Guillory, said he was disgusted by the reports about Odinet. “This type of language is hurtful, divisive and unacceptable,” he said in a statement.
“The fairness and objectivity of our courts are the foundation of our legal system. I hope the judge will do her best to help the community heal and move forward.”
City Sheriff Reggie Thomas told KATC that the language in the video was hurtful to its core. “I’m sure most people of color share my grief when the ‘N’ word is used to describe us. That said, I’m sure people of color will find it impossible to trust that they will be treated fairly and equitable when he has to appear before Judge Odinet “.
Thomas, who noted that he was the first African-American elected to municipal office in Lafayette, said Odinet should be held accountable. “It is up to Judge Odinet to remember the oath she took,” he said.
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