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Louisiana judge to take unpaid leave after home video captures racial slurs

The move comes after local officials and activists called for the resignation of Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet.

A Louisiana judge will go on unpaid leave after a video from her home captured people repeatedly using racial slurs following a burglary attempt, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet will temporarily step down Thursday, according to her lawyer, Dane Ciolino.

“She is humiliated, embarrassed and sorry for what she’s done and the trouble she’s caused to the community,” Ciolino said. "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 move comes after leaders and activists, including the president of the local chapter of the NAACP, called for Odinet’s resignation. 

“If something happens in your house, you are responsible for it,” City Marshal Reggie Thomas said, according to NBC affiliate KLAF of Lafayette. “When something like that is said from a leader, then it has to be addressed.”

Image: Judge Michelle M. Odinet
Judge Michelle M. Odinet.City Court of Lafayette, La.

The video, first reported by local news outlet the Current, was shot after a burglary attempt at Odinet’s home early Saturday, Ciolino said. He declined to provide additional details about the incident, but a Lafayette police report obtained by the Current said it occurred at 2 a.m.

An unnamed person reportedly saw a suspect leaving one of the family’s vehicles, the Current reported. The suspect tried to run but was quickly caught and held until officers arrived, the news outlet reported.

The Lafayette Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the video, which appears to show people discussing a home security video of the suspect’s capture, a man can be heard be saying: “mom’s yelling, n-----, n-----.”

A woman’s voice can then be heard responding: “We have a n-----, It’s a n-----, like a roach.”

Odinet’s voice “appears at some point” on the video, Ciolino said, but he declined to say what she said and who else may have been speaking.

In a text message to the Current, Odinet said the attempted burglary "shook me to my core" and that she'd taken a sedative at the time of the video.

"I have zero recollection of the video and the disturbing language used during it," she said, according to the Current. "Anyone who knows me and my husband, knows this is contrary to the way we live our lives."

In a separate text message to another local newspaper, the Acadiana Advocate, Odinet said the "situation highlighted and confirmed a suspected substance abuse issue our son is having."

Odinet declined to comment to NBC News on Wednesday. Ciolino also declined to comment on the statements, saying he hadn’t discussed them with his client.

Odinet, a Republican, was first elected to a six-year term last year, the Acadiana Advocate reported. She previously worked as a prosecutor and public defender.