Criminal proceedings against Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope were pushed back Tuesday to allow Pope’s attorneys to gather evidence in support of their motion to move the trial out of Lafayette Parish.
Hearings on that and two other motions are scheduled for March 26, with trial set for April 23.
Pope’s attorneys, Brett Grayson and John McLindon, argued in court filings that “citizens of Lafayette Parish have been bombarded with adverse information” regarding Pope, and specifically a messy public records lawsuit that spawned seven criminal charges against him.
Pope’s attorneys this month issued subpoenas to local media outlets for Pope-related coverage, and Grayson told Judge David Smith of the 15th Judicial District Court on Tuesday that some of the subpoenas remained outstanding.
Also receiving subpoenas were the co-chairs of the failed Recall Brian Pope campaign, which folded in December after announcing it had fallen about 3,800 signatures shy of the needed 27,500 to recall Pope. Pope’s legal team sought original copies of the signed recall petitions, in order to prevent any of the signees from serving on the jury.
But Aimee Gotcher-Robinson, who chaired the recall effort, swore in court Tuesday that she destroyed the petitions on Dec. 12, the final day of the campaign. That was also the day that City Marshal officers arrested co-chairman Steven Wilkerson on a 20-year-old misdemeanor warrant.
Charges against Wilkerson were later dropped.
Gotcher-Robinson testified Tuesday she had promised to keep signees’ information private, even though the petition is a public record and subject to preservation requirements under state law. Gotcher-Robinson testified that she was unaware of that law until recently, and that she destroyed the signatures because she feared Pope would retaliate.
Gotcher-Robinson said she would accept any legal consequence of her actions, and did not betray any regret.
“Here he is wanting 20,000 signatures he is not going to have access to,” Gotcher-Robinson said, referring to Pope.
Pope faces seven felony charges, including perjury and malfeasance, related to his alleged use of public resources to support his preferred candidate in the 2015 sheriff race. Pope refused The Independent newspaper’s public records requests concerning those allegations, and is accused of lying in a deposition in the course of The Independent’s resulting lawsuit.