Editor’s note: WAFB blacked out the last four digits of the phone number and the three instances where the “n-word” appeared in snapshots of the alleged text messages.
ASSUMPTION PARISH, La. (WAFB) - A district court judge made a stunning public admission Sunday – that she indeed used a stinging racial slur against a black sheriff’s deputy and a black law clerk in her district.
“I admit that I used that word,” 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc said during an exclusive interview with WAFB Investigative Reporter Scottie Hunter. “I profusely apologize for that. I should have never said it. It was uncalled for. I was angry. I was upset. But, it’s no excuse.”
Asked if she had ever used the slur before, the judge seemed to stumble over her own words.“Not in a – no - not – no – not in a – no - I have not used that racial slur in the past,” the judge replied. “This was in a moment of a heated exchange that was private between Bruce and one I that I never dreamed would have come out to the public.
LeBlanc has previously admitted that she had an affair with a Bruce Prejean – the former number two deputy in Assumption Parish. Both were married to other people at the time.
“It is something I’m not proud of,” LeBlanc said. “I’ve had to apologize to my husband. I will continue to have to apologize to my husband, my children, and my God for the rest of my life."
LeBlanc’s husband sat by her side for the WAFB interview.
Assumption Parish Sheriff Leland Falcon demoted Prejean from his position as Chief Deputy after Prejean admitted to the affair last year.
In a rare move, District Attorney Ricky Babin and the district’s lead public defender earlier this year filed a motion asking that LeBlanc voluntarily remove herself from criminal matters in Assumption Parish or be forced to do so because of the affair.
LeBlanc says she does not believe the affair is something that would warrant any new trials.
LeBlanc’s attorney, Jill Craft, says LeBlanc has only presided over two criminal trials in Assumption Parish since taking the bench.
Both were jury trials, Craft said Sunday.
Despite calls from the NAACP for her to step down from the bench, LeBlanc said Sunday she has no plans to do.
“I know in my heart that I have done my job to the very best of my ability,” the judge said.
“She should be removed from the bench,” Baton Rouge NAACP President Eugene Collins said Sunday evening. Collins is leading the charge to have the judge removed and says demonstrations will take place if she does not step down.
“This is about creating a fair and impartial system,” said Collins. He said he does not want any judge who uses that slur to review the cases of “family members, community members, or anyone else.”
"It’s terrible and there’s no excuse - zero excuse - for anyone using that word and that language,” Craft said of her client. “My concern globally is one of where do you draw the line? Does that mean that every judge in the state has to sign an affidavit under oath that they’ve not used the n-word or they’ve not referred to women as the c-word or the b-word or gay people in a derogatory fashion and, if they have, are they automatically disqualified from cases involving women, African Americans, Hispanics, or gay people?”
LeBlanc said the affair became public last year when she was presented with a warrant to sign.
“In that warrant, I recognized the name of Bruce’s son (Prejean’s son) as being an undercover agent in a narcotics warrant,” LeBlanc said Sunday. “I refused to sign the warrant. I did not reject it. I simply wrote on the warrant – ‘please present to another judge for signature’.”
LeBlanc said shortly after that, she was contacted by Sheriff Falcon, asking why she would not sign the warrant.
“I explained to him that I knew the undercover agent personally, I knew him through his father, and that I’d had a close personal relationship with his father. And, that I just thought it was prudent for him to present it to another judge. From there, the sheriff went to our district attorney, where it is not a secret that the district attorney does not like me. I am not a person that just signs off on anything that is presented to me, whether it’s something presented to me by the DA’s office or any of the sheriff’s offices. I read it, I discern it, and I determine whether the law is applicable and whether it should be signed. And so that’s how we got to this point,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc says, after ending the affair with Prejean, she had several disturbing things happen including an anonymous note left on her door with the “n-word” on it and a package anonymously left at her office that contained Prejean’s phone records. She says the records had the phone number of another judge’s female law clerk highlighted, leading her to believe that Prejean and that African American law clerk had also been in a relationship.
“From there, I did lash out at him (Prejean),” she said during the exclusive WAFB interview Sunday. “And, in lashing out at him, in those text messages, I lashed out at two of his African American friends. One of them being that law clerk. I did call them that name. They do not deserve that. They deserve an apology from me. And, I sincerely apologize to both of them for using that word. While I may have been upset, angry, scared, it does not excuse my actions.”
LeBlanc says two other judges in her district knew about her affair with Prejean. She said the two judges, who she did not name, spoke to her privately about the affair in 2017. She said one of the judges advised her to delete Prejean’s name from her phone.
None of LeBlanc’s fellow judges in her district have the authority to discipline her, even if they thought it was warranted.
District Attorney Babin, reached by phone Sunday, said he didn’t know he and LeBlanc had any issues.
“She’s like any other judge,” said Babin. “She rules for us sometimes and against us at other times.”
Judge LeBlanc’s term on the bench ends in December. She says she will run for another term.
“I know that I treat everyone with respect,” she said. “ It doesn’t matter who you are... And, that’s how I was raised. I was not raised to treat someone based upon the color of their skin. So, to those people, I tell them, yes, I made a horrible decision in using those slurs toward those people. I ask for forgiveness from them. I’ve asked for forgiveness from my God. And, I know that I am not a person that bases you off the color of your skin."