A Louisiana judge recorded uttering a series of obscene and racial slurs has welcomed in the new year by resigning from her seat, much to the relief of her outraged community.
Lafayette city court judge Michelle Odinet officially drew the ire of locals earlier this month when a video surfaced showing her reaction to some vandalism that had taken place at her home.
CNN’s Melissa Alonso and Eliott C. McLaughlin reported on statements from the Lafayette Police Department, which said, “two vehicles were burglarized in the driveway of a home owned by Odinet and her husband.”
According to the police report, “One of the victims was returning home when she or he saw the suspect exit one of the vehicles. The suspect was pursued, caught and held down [until] officers arrived.”
Alonso and McLaughlin added that in the video from Odinet’s home, which was “somehow” made public online, “people appear to be watching footage of the incident on a TV. A male voice is heard saying, ‘Mom’s yelling n***er, n***er.’ A female voice then says while laughing, ‘It’s a n***er, like a roach.’”
City officials have said they don’t know who recorded the video or how it was released to the public. Still, the results of its leak were swift. Odinet initially attempted to take a leave of absence from her position — but with the controversy over her actions showing no signs of dying down in the southern town of just over 125,000 — she decided to resign from her court position last week.
In her resignation letter to Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice John Weimer, Odinet wrote: “I take full responsibility for the hurtful words I used to describe the individual who burglarized the vehicles at my home. After much reflection and prayer, and in order to facilitate healing within the community, I hereby resign as judge of the Lafayette City Court, effective immediately.”
The disgraced former judge ended her letter by saying, “I am sorry for the pain that I have caused my community and ask for your forgiveness, as my words did not foster the public’s confidence and integrity for the judiciary.”
When news of Odinet’s actions initially broke, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the local chapter of the NAACP, and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus had all issued calls for her immediate resignation.
New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams also called for an immediate review of all cases prosecuted by Odinet to look for signs of racial bias or racism which may have impacted her court proceedings.
“That a judge and former prosecutor so comfortably employed a racial epithet serves as a telling reminder that the attitudes which fostered mass incarceration continue to undermine our pursuit of equal justice,” Williams said in a statement. “Moreover, the casual dehumanization displayed by Judge Odinet raises serious questions about her impartiality and the presence of bias and discrimination in her work.”
In an early interview with CNN affiliate KATC, Odinet apologized and blamed her actions on a sedative she had taken following the incident, claiming she had no “recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it.”
“The [burglary] shook me to my core, and my mental state was fragile,” she said in the interview. “I was a wreck and am still unable to sleep. I was given a sedative at the time of the video.”
In an additional statement, Odinet’s attorney Dane Ciolino said that her client was “humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she has done and the harm she has caused to the community.”
“Ms. Odinet understands that this is the end of her public service, but only the beginning of what she must do to earn the forgiveness of the community,” Ciolino said.