Marshal to bond out during his appeal

by Christiaan Mader

The District Court has allowed Marshal Pope to post bond while he takes his case to the 3rd Circuit, avoiding his house arrest sentence for the time being.

Pope enters the Lafayette Parish Courthouse for day one of his contempt hearing.
Photo by Robin May

City Marshal Brian Pope has been spared house arrest for the duration of his appellate challenges to judgments ruled against him in our ongoing public records dispute. The marshal had recently been ordered to report to Lafayette Parish Correctional Center on April 4 to begin seven days of house arrest as part of a criminal contempt of court penalty established March 24. By granting the bail bond motion, the 15th Judicial District Court has allowed Pope to avoid jail time and instead post a $500 bond, while his attorneys challenge the contempt ruling and consequent penalties with a writ before the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.

Pope has also appealed District Court Judge Jules Edwards’ Jan. 4 ruling that Pope’s responses to two IND public records requests were “woefully inadequate” and his failure to comply with those requests “arbitrary and unreasonable.” Via those requests, The IND had sought emails that would later prove that Pope had used an official city marshal’s press conference in October 2015 to lob an anti-immigrant attack on then-candidate for sheriff Mark Garber in collaboration with Garber’s opponent in the race, Scott Police Chief Chad Leger. For months, Pope blocked The IND’s requests until a December court order, the same court order for which Pope had been recently held in contempt.

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.

That January ruling, after months of court action, saddled Pope with what became a near $100,000 bill, including accrued penalties and The IND’s legal fees and court costs. Pope has posted a $150,000 suspensive appeal bond in order to secure that judgment while he pursues the appeal. According to court documents, Pope is the principal signatory to that bond.

With the 3rd Circuit now reviewing two motions from Pope’s camp, the writ concerning contempt punishments set March 24 and the financial liability affixed Jan. 4, it’s unclear exactly when Pope would see house arrest or ultimately pay the hefty and ballooning bill.

According to the Louisiana public records statute, Pope is liable as custodian of record in solido with his office for The IND’s attorney fees and costs. The office serves as a surety in the event Pope himself can’t pay the fines. The law is written to avoid saddling the requester with the legal and financial burden of public transparency.

Pope could face criminal indictment for perjury, abuse of office and malfeasance, depending on whether a criminal investigation is pursued by the local district attorney's office or state attorney general. Judge Edwards himself made note of the potential perjury, malfeasance and abuse of office charges that Pope could face in his March 24 ruling.

Because of the civil nature of the judgments Pope has appealed, criminal charges can still be levied without regard for the status of that appeal.

To catch up on our public records dispute with the city marshal, check out our timeline.