Folks are calling for Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet to step down from the bench in the southern Louisiana city after racist slurs were heard in a now-viral video recording taken at her home. The judge says at the time of the recording she was in shock over an incident that had occurred at her home a few days before.
In the clip, both a male and female voice could be heard laughing and using the N-word as they watch what appeared to be a botched burglary. “That’s me,” one viewer said while watching the security footage of the man, later identified as Ronald Handy, being caught. “And Mom’s yelling ‘n—, n—.'” Another viewer says, “We have a n—–. It’s a n—–, like a roach.”
The speakers continued to yell expletives as they laughed and reviewed the video footage. It’s unclear who initially posted the clip online. Neither did Odinet reveal the identities of the speakers heard in the clip. The judge told KLFY an “armed robbery” attempt was made at her residence Saturday, Dec. 11.
“My children and I were the victims of an armed burglary at our home. The police were called, and the assailant was arrested. The incident shook me to my core, and my mental state was fragile,” Odinet said.
The 59-year old Handy has been arrested and charged with two counts of simple burglary. He is currently in the Lafayette Parish Jail on a $10,000 bond.
However, Lafayette Police Sgt. Paul Mouton told the station that Handy did not have any weapon on his person despite the judge’s claims that her family was involved in an “armed burglary.” What critics found even more alarming was Odinet’s reasoning behind the offensive language used in the footage.
The judge claimed she took medicine and didn’t recall the event. “I was a wreck and am still unable to sleep,” she said. “I was given a sedative at the time of the video. I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”
She continued, “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.”
Still, many believe her reasoning isn’t enough; they want her out. In a statement to CBS News, the president of the Lafayette Chapter of the NAACP, Michael Toussaint, says he’s never met the judge but has “heard her voice in campaigns ads.”
Toussaint believes Odinet “confirmed that the video was in fact taken inside her home, one would think that as a sitting judge, a mother, a community leader, a person in position of authority, that she would have stepped up and taken a stand against that type of language in her own home.”
City Marshal Reggie Thomas, who is the first Black person to be elected to a citywide office in Lafayette, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, and Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory all want Odinet to take responsibility and resign.
“I am disgusted and appalled by the recent reports involving a local judge,” Guillory said in a statement earlier this week. “This type of language is hurtful, divisive, and unacceptable. 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.”
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