New Orleans’ district attorney on Monday ordered his office’s civil rights division to review all cases prosecuted by a one-time assistant district attorney who is now a judge on unpaid leave after a video with racist language recorded at her home surfaced.
The division will review all cases prosecuted by Michelle M. Odinet when she worked in Louisiana’s most populous city, District Attorney Jason Williams said. Her tenure began part-time in June 1991, and she became a full-time assistant district attorney in November 1993, the office’s chief administrative officer, Tyronne Walker, told CNN, citing what he called incomplete personnel records.
Odinet took a leave of absence last week as a city court judge in Lafayette and has faced calls to resign over the video, which appears to show surveillance footage of an outdoor altercation with a burglary suspect being played on a television while people, who are not visible, view and comment on the footage using racist language.
The video was shared with local media in Lafayette and then shared widely across social media.
The Lafayette Police Department said two vehicles were burglarized around 2 a.m. on December 11 in the driveway of a home that records show is owned by Odinet and her husband.
The suspect tried to flee on foot but was caught by the victim, who police said was returning home when they saw the suspect getting out of one of the vehicles at the home. The victim held the suspect down until officers arrived, according to the statement from police.
In the video circulating online, a male voice can be heard saying, “And Mom’s yelling n***er, n***er.” Then after what appears to be some jovial banter, a female voice is heard saying, “We have a n ***er, It’s a n***er, like a roach,” while laughing.
The group continues talking back and forth, at one point laughing at someone in the surveillance video tripping and someone else losing their wallet.
Then a male voice is heard saying, “That’s my phone where it fell out.”
“The dude had a phone on him,” a female voice chimes in. “You should have taken his phone and stolen from him, that f**king a**hole.”
“Go and get the gun,” says another voice. “It’s important, very important,” says a male voice as the video continues.
Odinet feels “humiliated, embarrassed, and sorry for what she has done and the harm she has caused to the community” and is taking unpaid leave, her lawyer told the Acadiana Advocate last week.
“What happens in the long term is something she is going to think about in the weeks to come,” said the statement by lawyer Dane Ciolino, who confirmed the details to CNN.
Who recorded the video from inside the home or how it became public isn’t clear.
Williams, the New Orleans district attorney, said, “The language attributed to Judge Odinet last week is deeply concerning to any person who genuinely cares about fair outcomes in our criminal system.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards and others called last week for Odinet to resign.
Ciolino said Odinet has “heard the calls from the Governor and the community and resignation is certainly at the top of her list of considerations.”
Judge says she had been given a sedative
Odinet has said she had been “given a sedative” and had no “recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it,” according to a statement last week to CNN affiliate KATC.
“My children and I were the victim 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.”
The judge added: “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.”
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