Around mid-morning on Monday, City Marshal Brian Pope checked in to jail. He walked into Lafayette Parish Correctional Center accompanied by two of his three attorneys, clad in a couture-cut navy blazer and a colorfully plaid shirt. He paid a $500 bond and walked out, presumably back to his office to resume his duties as chief officer of the enforcement arm of Lafayette City Court.
Officially, Pope was “arrested” for criminal contempt of court and sentenced to seven days of house arrest. That charge and judgment were levied in response to Pope’s defiance of a court order and injunction to turn over records requested by The IND last year — records that, last December, proved that Pope had abused his office for the political gain of his pal, failed sheriff candidate Chad Leger.
For now at least, Pope is walking. But to pursue his freedom from imprisonment, penalty and accountability, Pope has already spent $47,000 through March in legal fees and costs, paid from an official expense account. Over the course of our seven-month public records dispute, Pope has employed three attorneys and two expert witnesses to tally that total. That’s thousands of public dollars consumed in service of covering up his abuse of office and avoiding the consequences for a bungled foray into dirty politicking.
As you probably recall, this all began with a bizarre press conference held Oct. 7, 2015, in which Pope attacked Leger’s opponent Mark Garber, now sheriff-elect, alleging he traveled to Honduras to court clientele for his law firm from potential illegal immigrants. On Oct. 8, The IND filed a public records request, seeking emails between Pope and Leger’s campaign. Pope has evaded turning over those records at great public cost.
As early as Oct. 12, four days after The IND filed its first request, Pope lawyered up. His initial defense team included criminal defense attorney Charles K. Middleton, expanding to criminal specialist J. Kevin Stockstill and now Katherine Guilbeau Guillot, who was recently added to the retinue to help appeal the judgments set against him.
For what Pope has shrugged off as run-of-the mill political activity, he’s spent a lot of public dollars trying to hide it.
Those dollars were used to claim that the documents The IND sought, which recorded his abuse of office in service of Leger’s campaign, were part of an ongoing marshal’s office “investigation” of immigration issues facing the parish, and were thus exempt from production. Pope’s “investigation” was a cursory email sent to City Court the day before his conference to get a racial break down of offenders with outstanding warrants. He's made no progress since.
Those dollars were used to claim that no records existed that were responsive to our request. Pope himself later produced, at 15th Judicial District Court Judge Jules Edwards’ instruction, 588 pages of documents. An additional 79 pages of documents were produced by Lafayette Consolidated Government, the city marshal’s email service provider, which Pope withheld in his own production. Among them were the smoking guns of Pope’s abuse of power — emails from Leger’s campaign manager Hilary “Joe” Castille, supplying Pope with press materials and a script for the attack on Garber (this KATC story captures some of the awkward moments of him stumbling through the script as his deputies, who were on the clock, look on). Expert testimony demonstrated that Pope deleted those documents.
Those dollars were used to proffer courtroom speculation that Pope’s @lafayettela.gov email address had been malevolently co-opted or “spoofed” and used as a front address for a mailing blast of the Castille-authored press materials via a mailing service called Campaigner.
Those dollars were used to deny that he had ever heard of Campaigner, despite the presence of a Campaigner authorization email in that digital pile of deleted records.
Those dollars were used to craft a defense that Pope should not have been expected to know that the records he deleted would exist on the LCG server. Court testimony showed that Pope made no effort to recover records he knows he deleted, despite ready access to LCG IT staff more than equipped to aid his search.
Those dollars were used to put former LCG CAO Dee Stanley and LCG attorney Mike Hebert on the stand to interrogate and accuse them of a covert, criminal conspiracy against Pope.
Those dollars were used to draft Pope’s own massive, onerous public records request on LCG — a request so broad that Stanley and Hebert reported would potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply with.
These costs are all in addition to more than $100,000 in penalties, fees and costs awarded by Judge Edwards, who found Pope’s response to The IND’s requests “woefully inadequate” and “arbitrary and unreasonable.” Pope has personally posted a $150,000 suspensive appeal bond to cover the fees, costs and penalties ordered by the Court on Jan. 4, but public dollars have gone to the legal preparation of his appeal.
We'll argue till the cows come home that Pope should not use his custodial funds in this manner.
Pope chose to spend public dollars to avoid his statutorily mandated duty. In doing so, he jeopardized further public funds by forcing the issue to court where he, as head of his office, was found culpable for the attorneys fees and costs incurred by The IND in pursuit of public records.
Until his appeal is resolved in the next few months, the costs will keep growing.