Marshal’s contempt hearing reset

by Christiaan Mader

The hearing will mark the next major inflection in The IND's ongoing investigation into Marshal Pope's abuse of office.

Phot by Robin May

Court proceedings in The IND’s ongoing public records dispute with Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope will resume March 22 with a rescheduled contempt hearing in district court.

In a teleconference Wednesday morning, Judge Jules Edwards denied Pope’s motion to stay proceedings pending the result of a suspensive appeal. An appeal bond had been set at just north of $80,000.

Back in February, Edwards took a medical leave which conflicted with the original Feb. 29 contempt hearing date. Edwards granted a joint motion for continuance which avoided the appointment of an ad hoc judge to hear the increasingly complicated and factually dense public records case.

The rescheduled contempt hearing will determine the amount of penalties and fees Pope could owe as a result of a previous ruling that Pope’s responses to two public records requests The IND filed in October and November of last year were “woefully inadequate.”

Pope could face criminal or civil contempt penalties for withholding records in defiance of a Dec. 14 mandamus order and injunction.

Following the December court order, Pope produced several hundred pages of emails that met the parameters of The IND’s October request, after initially claiming an investigatory exemption and then later that no responsive records existed. At that time, the IND also filed a parallel request with LCG, the marshal’s email service provider, which included 79 pages of documents not produced in Pope’s response, implying that Pope may have deleted those records.

The IND’s requests sought email records which would later demonstrate collaboration between Pope and the campaign for sheriff of Scott Police Chief Chad Leger in holding this bizarre press conference attacking Leger’s then-opponent, Sheriff-elect Mark Garber. Using the resources of public office for the benefit of a political candidate is against the law in the state of Louisiana.

The records from the LCG records response uncovered emails between Pope and Leger’s campaign manager Hilary “Joe” Castille which included press materials and a statement issued by the marshal’s office, but written by Castille.

Pope claimed, under oath, at a December hearing that his office had authored those documents, a stand which he walked back once confronted with the controverting emails in the LCG cache in a video deposition.

Those press materials were distributed to media and private citizens using a mailing list management service called Campaigner. Pope denied having ever heard of or used the service, prompting his attorney Charles Middleton to speculate in court that marshal’s email address could have been “spoofed.”

The LCG production included an authorization email from Campaigner sent to Pope’s official address. Pope’s own production did not.

Earlier this year, the court allowed The IND to inspect the marshal’s computer and server to fully satisfy the standing requests and determine the reasons for the alarming irregularities in Pope’s responses.

The IND's findings will be presented to the court at the contempt hearing.

Of late, Pope’s attorneys have worked to get the marshal in compliance with the Court’s mandamus order. Meanwhile, penalties accrue at $200 per day — $100 daily for two outstanding requests.