Marshal’s house arrest delayed

by Christiaan Mader

The severity of Pope's sentence was a surprising twist. Not surprisingly, he's looking to get out of it.

Embattled City Marshal Brian Pope’s house arrest stint has been delayed by at least a week to allow the marshal to seek a stay of his imprisonment from an appellate court.

The District Court also granted a motion to increase to $150,000 the amount of Pope’s appeal bond, a guarantee of awarded costs and penalties required for Pope to file a suspensive appeal of the District Court’s ruling.

As The IND reported after last week's contempt of court hearing, Pope was supposed to report to the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center by noon today to arrange his house arrest, but that has been delayed to April 4.

As a result of civil and criminal penalties issued at the March 24 hearing, the marshal was sentenced to 30 days of imprisonment, the maximum penalty in this case, with all but seven days suspended. The house arrest is part of the suspended sentence. He also will serve two years of unsupervised probation, and if he violates his probation, he will serve the remaining 23 days of suspended imprisonment.

Fifteenth Judicial District Court Judge Jules Edwards found Pope in contempt of court for violating court orders to turn over records requested by The IND last year. Among the withheld records were emails between Pope and Hilary “Joe” Castille, manager of Chad Leger’s failed campaign for sheriff, which proved that Castille had scripted and orchestrated an official Lafayette city marshal press conference attacking Leger’s opponent, sheriff-elect Mark Garber.

October 2015

Pope abuses his office to play politics on behalf of his friend, sheriff candidate Chad Leger

The IND seeks records in connection with that episode, which Pope refuses to turn over

November 2015

The IND files suit to obtain the withheld records.

December 2016

District Court Judge Jules Edwards orders Pope to turn over the requested records.

The marshal produces an incomplete response

He lies under oath about it.

January 2016

Judge Edwards rules Pope's responses “woefully inadequate” and a contempt hearing is scheduled.

March 2016

Testimony proves that Pope knowingly withheld records from The IND’s request and that he lied about the Leger campaign’s involvement.

Expert testimony at the contempt hearing, explaining the structure of the marshal’s email architecture, proved that the marshal had deleted the emails requested by The IND, presumably to cover up his abuse of office, in direct violation of his duty under the public records law and in possible defiance of a court order and injunction handed down last December.

Pope originally appealed a Jan. 4 ruling that his responses to The IND’s requests were “woefully inadequate” and that his failure of duty was “arbitrary and unreasonable” — that ruling was the basis for the contempt hearing. That appeal will likely be amended to include an appeal of the contempt penalties awarded last week, which require Pope to teach 173 hours of public instruction on public records law (one hour for each day he delayed getting the records to this newspaper) in addition to imprisonment and awarded attorney fees, costs and penalties. A separate writ of review of the misdemeanor sanctions has already been granted by Edwards but a stay of the sanctions pending that writ was denied. Pope will seek an emergency stay from the Court of Appeals.

In a ruling this morning, Edwards ordered Pope to cover IT expert witness costs of $9,000 incurred by The IND.
In the meantime, penalties of $100 per day continue to accrue for one records request which remains outstanding. That request sought a list of email addresses to which a press advisory and statement, written by the Leger campaign, were sent using Pope's official email address.

Some of the case history could serve as grounds for criminal investigation into perjury, abuse of office, prohibited political practices and malfeasance. Pope could be indicted for those charges even while his appeal of the civil rulings is ongoing.

Want to catch up on our public records dispute with the marshal? Check out our Pope-saga timeline here.