Old Facebook posts show Michelle Odinet setting up traps for burglars: ‘She’s been playing cowboy’

Screenshots of Facebook posts from 2019 and 2020 suggest Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet was trying to capture a person suspected of burglaries in her Bendel Gardens neighborhood.

A Nov. 22, 2019, post in a Bendel Gardens neighborhood Facebook group shows Odinet sharing a video of an attempted car burglary at her home.

“Our resident car burglar was back last night around 3:10 a.m. Remember to lock your doors,” Odinet wrote. In the comment section, she added that she had “another video of him entering the truck. He comes every other Thursday. Since the truck was unlocked, I know he will be back.”

Through her attorney, Dane Ciolino, Odinet confirmed the screenshots were from her Facebook account.

The disclosure comes amid community outcry after a video was released showing Odinet's family gathering to watch home security footage of a burglary that took place Saturday in their driveway, in which a voice is heard saying, “And mom’s yelling n*****, n*****,” to which a female voice answered: “We have a n*****; it’s a n*****, like a roach.”

Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet will take an unpaid leave of absence, her lawyer, Dane Ciolino, told The Acadiana Advocate on Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening, Ciolino confirmed that Odinet said the slurs on the video and she will take an unpaid leave of absence.

Ciolino said she feels “humiliated, embarrassed, and sorry for what she has done and the harm she has caused to the community. What happens in the long term is something she is going to think about in the weeks to come.”

In another post in the same neighborhood Facebook group, dated Jan. 16, 2020, Odinet says an attempted burglary in her driveway led the Lafayette Police Department to open an investigation.

“LPD has assigned a detective to my case. They may set up a sting if I can provide them with other cases from our neighborhood,” she wrote, adding that “the detective searched Beverly and didn’t find any other reports.”

The Lafayette Police Department confirmed a police report was filed regarding an attempted vehicle burglary. It could not confirm that a detective had been assigned to the case.

According to another source who asked to remain anonymous, Odinet told attorneys about leaving $20 visible in her car as a trap.

Odinet said in the 2020 post that “the more reports, the better the chances of them setting up a sting operation.” In the comment section, a user commented, “Michelle set up a trap last weekend with cash exposed in the car and a dashcam and caught great footage of the guys!”

On Tuesday, Odinet asked for “understanding, forgiveness, patience, and prayers.” In a text message to The Acadiana Advocate, she also said she had no recollection of the recent video.

Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet asked for “understanding, forgiveness, patience, and prayers” for her and her son as requests for h…

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“The incident shook me to my core and my mental state was fragile,” she said. “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 clip has prompted local officials and community organizers to express concern over Odinet’s rulings since she was elected in 2020.

“She’s been playing cowboy as if she is the law, and endangering everyone involved for years,” said the Lafayette resident who contacted The Advocate. “She was ready for the event in their driveway and all but instigated it.”

After the video was released Monday, Odinet has faced increasing backlash and calls for an investigation into her behavior.

Some have publicly called for Odinet’s suspension, but suspending a judge in Louisiana is not an easy process. City judges are elected officials, and they can’t be technically fired, even in cases where misconduct is proven.

Odinet, a Republican, won the seat for Division A of Lafayette City Court in November 2020, defeating Judge Jules Edwards with 57% of the vote. Her term is supposed to end in January 2027.

Two episodes in recent Louisiana history might give an idea of what Lafayette residents should expect in regards to Odinet’s case.

In December 2004, the state’s Supreme Court suspended 21-year veteran Judge Timothy C. Ellender of the 32nd Judicial District Court in Terrebonne Parish on the recommendation of the Judiciary Commission.

Old Facebook posts show Michelle Odinet setting up traps for burglars: ‘She’s been playing cowboy’

Calls continue for the resignation of Lafayette City Court Judge Michelle Odinet after a racial slur was captured in a video recorded at her h…

A year earlier, on Oct. 31, 2003, Ellender and his wife attended a Halloween party at the 1921 Seafood Restaurant in Houma. Ellender dressed as a prisoner, and along with an orange prison jumpsuit he borrowed from the Terrebonne Parish sheriff, he wore an Afro wig. Afterward, both Ellender and his wife applied black makeup to their faces.

After an article by The Courier reported the behavior, and CNN followed up on the case, six complaints were filed to the Judiciary Commission. After an almost 14-month investigation, the judge was suspended without pay for one year plus one day.

A similar scandal occurred in Louisiana last year and resulted in a resignation. In February 2020, 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc admitted she used the N-word multiple times in a text exchange with her lover, a sheriff’s deputy in the Assumption Parish at the time, in reference to a Black deputy and a Black court clerk.

“I profusely apologize for that. I should have never said it,” LeBlanc told WAFB-TV when announcing her resignation. “It was uncalled for. I was angry. I was upset. But it’s no excuse.”

If Odinet does not resign, the state Judiciary Commission will determine if the complaints filed by attorneys, private citizens and community organizers will have enough merit to move forward with an investigation. If that is the case, the commission can ask the state Supreme Court to suspend the judge pending further investigation.

If the commission’s investigation finds enough evidence of misconduct, it can begin hearings related to the case and eventually make a recommendation to the Supreme Court. In that case, it would be the Supreme Court that would decide Odinet’s fate.