Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope may not be the only person going down over his efforts to hide public records proving he colluded with Chad Leger’s campaign for sheriff last year, as the attorney Pope first hired to help him in the coverup was indicted by a Lafayette Parish grand jury Wednesday for perjury. The same grand jury, which slapped five felony counts on Pope in August, also tacked on two additional malfeasance in office charges against the city marshal in a superseding indictment Wednesday.
District Attorney Keith Stutes’ office released the additional charges against Pope, 51, yesterday afternoon but did not include the indictment of Lafayette attorney Charles “Chuck” Middleton in its release. Stutes tells The IND his office routinely seals indictments until after an arrest is made. The indictment was unsealed and sent to local media late Thursday morning.
The Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office arrested Middleton, 54, at his home Wednesday night at about 8:30; records show he was transported to the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center and released on a $10,000 bond. Approximately four hours later, Pope showed up for booking and was released on a $35,000 bond. Pope is facing five malfeasance charges and two perjury charges, all stemming from what started as this news organization's efforts to confirm that he abused his office to advance Leger's campaign.
15th Judicial District Judge Laurie Hulin ordered Pope not to leave the jurisdiction of the court — in other words, no more vacays to Cabo.
Yesterday’s appearance at LPCC marked the fourth (yes, fourth!) time Pope has turned himself in for booking in this case, which began as a civil matter when The IND sued him last year for access to public records he refused to turn over. Pope initially lied about the existence of the records and was also untruthful when questioned on the stand about the role Leger’s campaign manager, Joe Castille, played in organizing and promoting a press conference at the marshal’s office to smear Leger’s opponent in the race for Lafayette Parish sheriff. After Pope defied 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards’ order to turn the records over, the judge held him in criminal contempt of court.
Last month Pope served seven days of house arrest as part of that contempt ruling.
The single perjury charge against Middleton, who withdrew his representation of Pope earlier this year, is related to the duo’s involvement in the drafting of a November 2015 motion to have Sheriff Mark Garber’s divorce record unsealed at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse (see below). Middleton then invoiced the marshal’s office for the “Mr. Redmond” motion, and Pope paid the bill. Pope and Middleton, The IND has since learned from the court record, believed the sealed divorce file contained an incriminating and embarrassing video of Garber, who defeated Pope’s favored candidate for Lafayette Parish sheriff last year. The file contained no such video.
Pope has refused to produce the motion for The IND and initially claimed to have no knowledge of it. He has since changed his tune, saying production of the so-called Redmond motion could jeopardize the criminal case against him.
For more than a year now, the city marshal has been draining his office coffers to pay his civil costs, which have swelled to approximately $150,000 (he still owes The IND about $200,000 for legal fees, costs and penalties awarded by the court), but by law cannot pay for his criminal defense with those public funds. It’s unclear who will represent him on the criminal side, as Lafayette criminal defense attorney Kevin Stockstill confirmed to The IND late yesterday afternoon that he is no longer representing Pope. While Stockstill had represented Pope on the civil side and was advising him on criminal matters, his legal bills reveal, Stockstill never officially enrolled as Pope’s criminal defense attorney.
Pope's lead attorney on the civil side is Joy Rabalais.
A pre-trial hearing for Pope is set for Jan. 19. In mid-October, the court gave him 30 days to file motions and pleadings and informed him that he had a month to retain counsel or apply for legal representation from the indigent defender’s office.
The IND will have more on this developing story later this week.