Hearing delayed on public records case involving Lafayette City Marshal _lowres

Brian Pope

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s house-arrest sentence, set to begin Monday, has again been postponed while he requests an appellate court review of his contempt-of-court conviction in a public records lawsuit.

Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards on Wednesday granted Pope a post-sentence bail of $500, allowing Pope a reprieve from the seven-day sentence until the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reviews the case.

Post-sentence bail is allowed if the maximum sentence for the conviction is five years or less, unless the court suspects the defendant poses a danger to the community or is a flight risk, according to Article 332 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.

After finding Pope in contempt of court on March 24 in The Independent’s public records lawsuit against him, Edwards ordered Pope to begin the sentence on March 28. That date was first postponed until April 4 when Pope filed a notice this week that he planned to apply for a 3rd Circuit review, and is now on hold while the review process pans out.

Pope’s attorney, Kevin Stockstill, said Friday he’s filing the review application within the next few weeks.

The appellate court’s review may take months, because it’s also considering another appeal Pope filed in the case, Stockstill said.

Pope appealed Edwards’ Jan. 4 ruling on the public records matter, which awarded The Independent, a Lafayette news organization, attorneys fees, court costs and penalties for a “woefully inadequate” production of records. The contempt hearing followed that ruling.

Pope has also filed an appeal that suspends the ruling, allowing Pope to post a bond rather than pay the fees and fines while the appellate court reviews the case.

That bond amount increased from $80,000 in February to $150,000 on Monday, when Edwards signed an order increasing the bond in keeping with the monetary penalties determined at Pope’s contempt hearing.

The bond holds Pope personally liable for the costs, which includes $18,800 in penalties and more than $77,900 in attorney fees and court costs.

Edwards on Wednesday also ordered Pope to pay $9,000 in fees to a computer expert who testified on behalf of The Independent and billed 40 hours of work for examining the marshal’s computer system and how it functions with the Lafayette Consolidated Government archiving system.

The archives store all emails to and from any lafayettela.gov account, like the one Pope uses for official business, whether or not they’ve been deleted from a user’s email program.

The Independent sought certain emails to and from Pope’s official account that show he colluded with Scott Police Chief Chad Leger’s unsuccessful campaign for sheriff in planning an Oct. 7 news conference that attacked his opponent, Sheriff-elect Mark Garber.

Pope did not produce any records until Dec. 17, following a court order from Edwards.

The Independent’s parallel request to LCG produced correspondence between Pope and the Leger campaign — emails that at some point were deleted from Pope’s computer and were not produced in his response.

Edwards has also ordered Pope to teach 173 hours of classes in public records law, what it takes to comply with the law and the adverse effects of evading it.

Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.