Marshal Pope indicted for paying legal fees with public funds

by Leslie Turk

Records show the city marshal’s two new malfeasance charges are related to specific payments made to local criminal defense attorneys.

Last week a Lafayette Parish grand jury tacked two additional felony charges onto embattled Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope, both of which are related to his use of public funds to pay legal bills.

A review of Pope’s legal bills shows that the dates listed in the indictment coincide with two payments of legal fees to local criminal defense attorneys Jonathan T. Jarrett and Katherine Guilbeau Guillot.

City Marshal Brian Pope
Image courtesy LPCC

While he would not comment specifically on the Jarrett and Guillot bills, District Attorney Keith Stutes confirms that the two new charges stem from the “payment by public funds of certain legal bills.” Those legal bills are related to Pope’s ongoing public records battle with The IND — which has sought to establish that Pope abused his office to advance Chad Leger's campaign for sheriff last year — and the now seven felony counts of perjury and malfeasance lodged against him by the grand jury.

That Pope might be popped on two additional malfeasance charges should come as welcome news to local residents incensed that the city marshal has been draining his office coffers to pay his legal fees, 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 in the civil case). While there is certainly some question as to whether Pope can legally use his office to pay his legal fees on the civil side, he cannot do so on the criminal side (though he can seek reimbursement if he’s exonerated). The latter is where he got himself into more trouble last week with the grand jury, which initially indicted him on five felony counts in August.

The specific date listed on the Nov. 30 indictment for Count 6 is June 13, 2016, the same day the marshal’s cost account cut a check to attorney Jonathan Jarrett for $1,175, according to legal bills obtained by The IND in a public records request. Among the references in the partially redacted bill, dated May 16-May 18 of this year, is “Telephone Conference with Alan Haney.” Haney is the assistant district attorney prosecuting Pope, which means Jarrett's legal work is related to criminal case and not the civil case with The IND. Jarrett, whose hourly rate on the invoice is $200, declined to comment on what other services he provided to Pope.

The date for Count 7 is July 13, 2016, the day the marshal’s cost account cut a $10,000 check to Katherine Guilbeau Guillot, another criminal defense attorney who worked on Pope’s appeal of 15th Judicial District Court Judge Edwards’ decision to hold the marshal in criminal contempt of court, an appeal Pope lost. Guillot says in the partially redacted invoice that her hourly rate for appellant work is $250.

Attorney Chuck Middleton
Image courtesy LPCC

Last week it was also revealed that Pope might even bring a local attorney down with him in what started more than a year ago as a simple public records request from this paper (and would likely have ended there had he just complied). Chuck Middleton, the first attorney Pope hired who later withdrew from the case, was also indicted on a single count of perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury. And, as it turns out, Pope may have escaped an additional malfeasance charge from a July 2016 Middleton invoice, which also references Haney, the grand jury and District Judge David Smith (who has been assigned the criminal case), because the marshal stopped paying Middleton in May, public records show. Middleton's last bill, which he calls a demand for payment, says he is due $10,910 for legal services in May, June and July.

A pre-trial hearing for Pope is set for Jan. 19; a criminal defense attorney has yet to enroll on Pope’s behalf.

Read more about the indictments against Pope and Middleton here.