Court allows further inspection of Pope’s email records

by Christiaan Mader

Late last year, The IND uncovered scores of pages that Pope failed to produce in our ongoing public records dispute. Further inspection will determine if anything else has been left out.

Photo by Robin May

The court will allow a technical expert employed by The IND to inspect City Marshal Brian Pope’s email servers, according to a ruling issued Monday morning. Granting The IND’s Feb. 11 motion, 15th Judicial District Court Judge Jules Edwards III ruled that The IND’s IT consultant can review Pope’s email records on site, following up on Pope’s own records searches conducted through two different consultants since late last year.

The scope of The IND's inspection will be determined by a protective order arranged between IND attorney Gary McGoffin and Pope’s newest counselor, J. Kevin Stockstill, a noted criminal defense attorney, to be issued Feb. 23. The protective order will determine the breadth of IND-retained expert Doug Menefee’s access to the marshal’s network, which would include private and confidential documents.

The IND has requested that Pope’s current IT consultant, Brian Hanks of Global Data Systems, be present at the time of Menefee’s inspection. Menefee will also access data stored on servers operated by Lafayette Consolidated Government, the marshal’s email service provider.

Since last October, The IND has submitted three public records requests, pertaining to the planning of a bizarre press conference attacking a sheriff's candidate held Oct. 7, which the Marshal has yet to satisfy. Edwards ruled on Jan. 18 that Pope’s responses to The IND’s Oct. 8 and Nov. 30 records requests were “woefully inadequate.”

Beginning with The IND’s first records request dated Oct. 8, Marshal Pope first claimed an exemption from records production. He later claimed that no records existed that would satisfy the production request save a handful of emails responding to a press advisory for that conference sent using a third party mail distribution service.

Following a mandamus order on Dec. 14, Pope delivered a stack of 588 pages of emails, searched and collected with the assistance of an IT consultant Pope retained at the court’s suggestion. However, a parallel records request The IND submitted to LCG with the same search parameters turned up an additional 79 pages of emails not included in that production.

At a Jan. 4 hearing, Pope’s technical consultant testified that he searched only Pope’s desktop computer and checked for sent and received emails contained in the outbox and inbox of his Outlook account. It’s not clear if the discrepancy in production is due to Pope having deleted or otherwise purged those missing documents from his computer. However, when asked at a recent deposition if he had, in fact, deleted the documents received from LCG, Pope replied under oath that he “might have.”

Edwards subsequently found Pope’s failure to satisfy The IND’s standing records requests both “arbitrary” and “unreasonable.” Pope is thus on the hook for The IND’s attorney’s fees and faces penalties currently accruing at a rate of $200 per day for each day that the records requests remain outstanding. An affidavit of cost filed by The IND earlier this year claims more than $30,000 in attorney's fees. Pope would owe an additional $15,800 in penalties, provided he does not satisfy the outstanding requests by Feb. 29, the date of his contempt hearing.

Pope recently retained a new technical consultant to address the outstanding records requests. Pope has since claimed through his legal team that he cannot complete a records response that contains the missing LCG documents given that those documents are no longer on the marshal’s computer.

Among those emails uncovered from the LCG production were exchanges between Pope and political consultant Hilary “Joe” Castille who managed the campaign for sheriff of Scott Police Chief Chad Leger, a candidate Pope endorsed. Those emails contained a press statement and advisory written by Joe Castille and sent to Pope prior to the press conference he held at his office attacking then-sheriff’s candidate Mark Garber, Leger’s opponent who went on to win the election.

Pope read the statement Castille had written verbatim at that presser and distributed the advisory to the media via a mass mailing service, linked to his work email address, called Campaigner, most likely the same service referenced in his earlier responses. Pope later denied under oath having sent those emails, further alleging that he had never heard of Campaigner. The LCG records production included a confirmation email sent from Campaigner to the marshal’s work email address on the same morning that the advisory campaign was emailed.

Furthermore, Pope originally claimed to have authored both the advisory and statement purportedly written by Castille, a claim he later walked back once confronted with the LCG production.

A contempt hearing in this matter is set for Monday, Feb. 29, at which time Edwards will hear Pope’s defense against his contempt charges and set penalties resulting from those charges, which could include additional fines, community service or jail time.