Racist remarks captured in video of Lafayette judge’s family cheering footage of foiled burglary

Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet Photo by Travis Gauthier

Dec. 31 UPDATE: Odinet resigned from her seat on Dec. 30, the Louisiana Supreme Court confirmed.

UPDATE: Odinet was temporarily disqualified from the bench by the Louisiana Supreme Court on Dec. 16 while complaints about her use of the n-word are investigated. The high court appointed retired Opelousas City Judge Vanessa Harris to serve the Lafayette City Court until Feb. 28.

A video has surfaced capturing racist remarks dropped casually in a Lafayette City Court judge’s home, as her family gathered to watch home security footage of a foiled car burglary in their driveway. 

In the clip, which Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet confirmed to be in her Bendel Gardens home, witnesses jokingly toss around racial slurs while narrating home security footage of their efforts to stop a man from breaking into a car on their driveway. 

In a phone interview, Odinet confirmed the “armed burglary” at her home very early Saturday morning, saying the incident “was horrific” and “shook” her “to the core.” No faces are evident in the cell phone video, and it is unclear who is using the racist language. It’s unknown who recorded the video, which was circulated to multiple members of the local media today, and how and why it was initially disseminated. 

There are multiple references to “mom” throughout the video and her role during the burglary in progress.

WARNING: This video contains racist language.

The Current is publishing the footage without censoring it so readers can draw their own conclusions about the identities and attitudes of the speakers recorded.  Censored and edited portions of the transcript follow. 

“And Mom’s yelling n*****, n*****,” says one male voice, to which another female voice responds: “We have a n *****, it’s a n*****, like a roach.” 

“Lost his wallet,” says one voice. “That’s my phone where it fell out,” says another. “Going get the gun,” can be heard. “The dude had a phone on him,” chimes in a female voice. “I should have taken his phone from him, that f****** ass****.” 

Judge Odinet has two sets of twin children. 

A Lafayette Police Department report places the attempted burglary at 2 a.m. Saturday and notes that the alleged unnamed victim observed the suspect leaving the interior of one of the family’s vehicles while returning home. 

“When the suspect observed the victim arrive, the suspect attempted to flee on foot but was quickly caught by the victim. Victim held the suspect down until officers arrived,” the police report notes. Footage in the security video captures the events, as two people tackle what appears to be the suspect. 

The investigation revealed that two vehicles had been burglarized, and the suspect, a 59-year-old Black man, Robert Handy, was charged with simple burglary of an auto and booked into the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center. The police report makes no mention of him having a weapon. He is due in court Tuesday.

Reached on her cell phone around noon Monday (she said she was home), Odinet said she had not slept since the incident and had not even had time to consider whether she would seek additional security for her home. Other than confirming the alleged burglary, Odinet, a Republican who last year was elected city judge over retired 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards, an independent, declined to release any details about the incident. “I cannot comment on open cases,” she said. 

When asked about the cell phone video, Odinet again said that she had not been able to sleep since the incident and asked if she could respond via text, which she promptly did after The Current texted her specific questions. 

In the questions sent by text, The Current also asked Odinet whether she thought she could sit fairly in judgment of Black defendants who appear before her court and whether she was planning to apologize for use of this offensive and derogatory epithet. Her statement follows: 

My children and I were the victim [sic] 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. I was a wreck and am still unable to sleep. 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. 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. 

Odinet did not directly address whether hers is the voice using the offensive racial epithets or whether she is the person who called the suspect “a roach,” though people familiar with Odinet say one of the voices using the racist language sounds like hers. 

Odinet did not respond to a followup text asking her to clarify whether she used racist language in the video.

Toward the end of the video, an unidentified female voice mutters, “The good thing is we’ve got video,” as someone jokes about a dog arriving on the scene to play fetch.