Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s office sunk deeper into controversy on Monday after executing a 20-year-old arrest warrant against one of Pope’s nemeses for a misdemeanor offense.
The warrants for Steven Wilkerson, an organizer in the failed recall campaign against Pope, relate to four counts of issuing worthless checks totaling less than $200 — an offense that has a two-year statute of limitations.
Wilkerson was booked shortly before 5:30 p.m. Monday, the day the recall campaign announced it had not gathered enough signatures for an election to recall Pope. Monday was also Pope’s birthday.
The campaign to recall Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope failed to gain enough signatures to get a recall election on a ballot, the campaign a…
“I can only speculate the Marshal’s Office felt a little bolder,” Wilkerson said on Tuesday. “Perhaps this was a birthday gift to Marshal Pope.”
Pope is facing seven criminal charges related to his involvement in the 2015 Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office. The perjury and malfeasance charges stem from his alleged use of public resources to harm the successful campaign of Sheriff Mark Garber. The trial is scheduled for Feb. 20.
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The recall campaign organizers also criticized Pope’s practice of paying himself from court fees, on top of a regular salary.
The four checks Wilkerson is accused of bouncing are dated within a little more than a month of one another in early 1997, when Wilkerson was a college student at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. They amount to less than $200 combined and are made out to three grocery stores and a Little Caesar’s pizza restaurant, according to an arrest affidavit.
The statute of limitations on misdemeanor theft counts such as those Wilkerson faces is two years from the offense dates, said William Goode, a criminal defense attorney based in Lafayette. If charges are brought, prosecutors will have to show Wilkerson was hiding, thus interrupting the statute of limitations, Goode said.
"They have to prove they tried to find and they couldn't find him because he was evading," Goode said. "This whole thing is very interesting."
Wilkerson is a U.S. Army veteran and former law enforcement officer who worked as a deputy in the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and as a police officer on three state college campuses, according to his résumé. He’d never heard about a warrant for his arrest until Monday night, he said.
“I’ve been through numerous background checks for employment in both my professional careers, and this has never even come up,” he said.
Wilkerson said it’s possible he wrote the checks but that he hasn’t seen any evidence.
“Of course, if I am in the wrong, I am more than happy to make appropriate restitution,” Wilkerson said.
Pope did not return a call Tuesday.