Marshal Pope ordered back to court, faces ’sanctions’

by Walter Pierce

He was supposed to perform 173 hours of community service for contempt of court. He evidently hasn’t lifted a finger to comply, and Judge Jules Edwards wants to know what’s up.

Pope exits the Lafayette Parish Courthouse Jan. 19 following a hearing for the felony charges against him.
Photo by Wynce Nolley

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope will be back before District Judge Jules Edwards on March 27 after evidently not lifting a finger to comply with Edwards’ March 24, 2016, order that Pope perform 173 hours of community service for criminal contempt of court in connection with The IND’s public records lawsuit against the lawman.

While the civil action against Pope by this newspaper has concluded, Pope still faces seven felony counts of perjury and malfeasance that grew out of the public records battle following his indictment by a Lafayette Parish grand jury last August; Pope will be in court Thursday for a pretrial hearing in the case, with a May 8 trial date before District Judge David Smith.

In March of last year, Judge Edwards ordered Pope to perform 173 hours of community service after finding him in contempt of court for failing to comply with the Louisiana Public Records Act. That community service was to be “in the form of public instructions on the subject of proper compliance” with the public records law. As Tuesday’s court order (reproduced below) indicates, the marshal has so far failed to submit a plan for performing the community service or proof that he’s performed any of it.

Today’s order makes reference to “sanctions levied against him” if he can’t show that he has complied with the community service order. It’s unclear what those sanctions might be, although one legal expert we spoke to said it might range from revoking his probation, which could result in 23 days in jail, or an additional financial penalty. (In finding Pope in criminal contempt last year, Edwards ordered him jailed for 30 days with all but one week suspended; he served the week on house arrest with an electronic ankle monitor in November.)

Pope’s original pretrial hearing on the seven felony charges was Jan. 19 at which time Judge Smith agreed to continue it to March 9. As we reported at the time:

For each perjury count, Pope faces a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment at hard labor for up to five years, or both. He faces up to five years at hard labor and a $5,000 fine, or both, on the malfeasance charges.

Pope’s legal troubles have also not been without their entanglements. In December, Charles Middleton, the first attorney Pope hired to defend him in his civil case against The Independent, was indicted on a single perjury charge. Moreover, District Attorney Keith Stutes has said the grand jury looking into the case remains open and could be convened to look at additional charges against anyone connected to the original and failed effort to help get Scott Police Chief Chad Leger elected sheriff in the fall 2015 election.

In other Pope-related news, earlier this week The IND received a check for $184,170 from SureTec Insurance Co. out of Houston, the surety bond company the marshal turned to after District Judge Jules Edwards ruled against him in January 2016, saying Pope’s response to the paper’s public records requests were “woefully inadequate,” that his decision to withhold documents was “arbitrary” and his failure to respond “unreasonable.”

The IND filed suit against the city marshal in November 2015, seeking to prove that he and his office colluded with the Leger campaign to discredit the candidacy of attorney Mark Garber, who ultimately won the sheriff election in a runoff against Leger.