US judge faces calls to quit over home video slurs

Judge Michelle Odinet

A US judge is to take leave of absence after video recorded at her home captured a racial slur directed at a burglar, local media report.

Judge Michelle Odinet, of Lafayette, Louisiana, said in a statement she had taken a sedative and had “zero recollection” of the incident.

In the clip, voices are heard narrating CCTV footage, reportedly of a burglar caught outside the judge’s house. The unseen people use an epithet and compare the suspect to a roach.

Judge Odinet’s lawyer, Dane Ciolino, told CBS news on Wednesday night one of the voices in the video belonged to the judge and that she had used a racist slur. He said he would file a motion on Thursday for his client to go on unpaid leave.

“She is humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she’s done and the trouble she’s caused to the community,” Mr Ciolino told the Acadiana Advocate. “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.”

The Current, a news outlet in Lafayette, quoted Judge Odinet as confirming in a statement to them that the footage had been recorded in her home. The statement said: “The incident [the burglary] shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile.”

“I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” the statement 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.”

Judge Odinet did not say whether she had used any of the racial epithets heard in the clip.

It is not clear who released the minute-long video, in which voices are heard laughing as they comment on security camera footage playing on a television, reportedly of a burglar being detained in front of the judge’s home. There are references to “mom” during the clip.

According to the US media, a 59-year-old black man, Ronald Handy, was detained on suspicion of breaking into a vehicle outside the judge’s home in the early hours of Saturday.

Lafayette Police Sgt Paul Mouton told KLFY-TV that Mr Handy was unarmed at the time of his arrest. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Anti-Defamation League are among organisations calling on the judge to resign.

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