Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope will head to court Dec. 27 for a hearing on a motion to revoke his probation. If granted, he could land in jail.
The motion, filed on behalf of The Independent newspaper, was originally scheduled for Monday in 15th Judicial District Court.
But Judge Jules Edwards granted Pope’s request to push it back — albeit for not as long as Pope had sought. The new hearing date is Dec. 27.
Pope’s attorney Joy Rabalais asked Edwards to put off the hearing until mid-January to allow a newly hired attorney, Scott Mansfield, time to prepare to handle Pope’s contempt of court conviction.
Edwards had found Pope in contempt in March 2016 after ruling that his response to The Independent’s public records request for emails was “woefully inadequate.”
He sentenced Pope to a 30-day jail sentence, most of which was suspended, 173 hours of community service and probation.
The emails The Independent sought showed Pope’s use of public resources to try to derail Mark Garber’s successful campaign for sheriff in the 2015 election, in some instances in concert with Garber’s chief opponent, Scott Police Chief Chad Leger.
Those emails were unearthed from a Lafayette Consolidated Government computer server after they were excluded from Pope’s court-ordered fulfillment of the initial public-records request.
Pope contends in a Nov. 1 federal lawsuit that the city-parish’s disclosure, which was pursuant to separate public records request by The Independent, violated the Stored Communications Act.
Pope separately faces seven criminal charges, including perjury and malfeasance, related to what the emails showed, as well as his conduct in the civil case. His trial on those charges is scheduled for Feb. 20.
Edwards initially required Pope to conduct public records training sessions for his community service, but ruled in September that Pope had failed to timely submit lesson plans.
Edwards gave Pope more flexibility, allowing him to combine litter abatement with trainings to satisfy the 173 hours requirement. Two months later, The Independent’s motion to revoke probation in November claimed Pope hadn’t bothered to enroll with the court’s probation office, although Pope showed up for his first litter-abatement shift on Saturday.
An attorney representing The Independent, Gary McGoffin, said Monday that Pope’s disregard for his community service obligation combined with what McGoffin claims is additional criminal misconduct while on probation is grounds for revoking it. He said The Independent will seek enforcement of the 30-day jail sentence. Pope has already served seven days of home detention with a monitoring device.
McGoffin said the additional crimes include Pope’s securing a $184,170 settlement payment to The Independent with a cash deposit from funds from the Marshal’s Office. Pope has defaulted on an additional $21,197 that he secured with a promissory note, McGoffin said.
McGoffin further contends Pope has illegally prevented release of an Louisiana Attorney General’s opinion concerning his practice of paying himself with City Court fees – a practice that McGoffin says is itself illegal.
Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope, who is facing criminal charges related to the 2015 sheriff's election, is preventing the release of a highl…
“This is a public-records case, and once again he’s violating public records law,” McGoffin said Monday after the proceedings in Edwards’ courtroom.
Pope requested the Attorney General’s opinion at the urging of the state auditor’s office as well as Lafayette city-parish officials who have noted that state law explicitly prohibits marshals in Shreveport and Lafayette from receiving the fees.
The Independent claims Pope has received more than $300,000 in compensation he shouldn’t have received since taking office in 2015. The Attorney General’s Office completed the opinion last summer, but the office failed in five separate attempts to contact Pope about it and subsequently shelved it without releasing it.
Whether Pope’s neglect of the attorney general opinion amounts to a legal violation is likely to surface in the hearing next week.
Rabalais, Pope’s attorney, said she is withdrawing from the case because Pope last month filed a federal lawsuit against the Lafayette city-parish government, which is one of Rabalais’ clients.
Edwards questioned why it had taken so long for Pope to find a new lawyer and further questioned why the lawyers handling his criminal case couldn’t also deal with the contempt charge.
“We are talking about whether the marshal should serve time in jail,” Edwards observed in the proceedings Monday, later adding that “it does appear the marshal is attempting to delay.”
Edwards nonetheless pushed the hearing back to Dec. 27, short of a date in mid-January that Rabalais had sought.