Judge caught on camera using racist slurs disqualified from working amid investigation

Author: CBS NEWS
Lafayette (Louisiana) City Court Judge Michelle Odinet in undated photo. (CREDIT: KLFY-TV via CBS News)

The Louisiana Supreme Court has disqualified Judge Michelle Odinet after she was caught on video using a racist slur. The Lafayette City judge, who previously said she had no memory of the incident, admitted to her role in the video and apologized.

Friday’s order said that Odinet is “disqualified from exercising judicial functions, without salary, during the pendency of further proceedings in these matters.”

A video circulated on social media did not show Odinet’s face but displayed what looked like footage of an attempted burglary on a television screen at the judge’s home. Voices — one of which is Odinet, her attorney Dane Ciolino confirmed Wednesday — can be heard in the background. They are laughing and using racist slurs.

In a statement from Ciolino on Wednesday, the attorney said Odinet feels “humiliated, embarrassed, and sorry for what she has done and the harm she has caused to the community.” Ciolino added she requested a leave of absence without pay.

Odinet had previously claimed to have taken a sedative at the time the video was made and that she didn’t remember it. She told CBS affiliate KLFY-TV that she and her children were the victims of an armed burglary.

“The police were called and the assailant was arrested,” she said. “The incident shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile.”

“Anyone who knows me and my husband, knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives,” she added. “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.”

KLFY reported that 59-year-old Ronald Handy, who is Black, was arrested and charged with two counts of simple burglary. He was being held in the Lafayette Parish Jail on $10,000 bond. Police said he was not armed.

Judge Jefferson D. Hughes, III dissented Friday’s order, saying that he would like to see more of the facts. “While I condemn the language reported in the media, at this point all we have are media reports,” he wrote.

There is no public recall for Louisiana judges, so only a direct decision from the Louisiana Supreme Court would remove Odinet from her bench.

The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, the NAACP and several local leaders have called on Odinet to resign.

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