A judge will decide next month whether the Lafayette political consultant accused of coordinating with Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope in an effort to sway the sheriff election will have to testify in the public records lawsuit against the marshal.
The Independent is seeking to depose Hilary “Joe” Castille, who worked last year for Scott Police Chief Chad Leger’s unsuccessful campaign for sheriff and who, according to records produced in the lawsuit, coordinated with Pope in planning an official news conference to attack Leger’s then-opponent, Sheriff-elect Mark Garber.
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards on Monday granted Pope’s motion to stop Castille’s deposition, through which The Independent also sought a number of records from Castille.
Gary McGoffin, who’s representing The Independent, requested in Castille’s subpoena that the consultant produce evidence of his contact with Pope, the City Marshal’s Office and the Leger campaign about the news releases distributed in relation to the news conference.
The Independent is also seeking the mailing list nested in the third-party email distributor that’s linked to Pope’s lafayettela.gov email account and that was used to mass email the materials used in the news conference.
“We are entitled to find out who those folks are,” McGoffin said in court Monday.
Castille, who’s not named in the lawsuit, has enlisted Lafayette attorney Clay Burgess.
Burgess argued in court Monday that because Castille is a private citizen, he should not have to produce the requested records. He also cited a December opinion from the Louisiana Supreme Court, in Shane v. Jefferson Parish, that determined all emails sent to and from a public official’s email account are public record, but private citizens’ identifying information should be redacted.
Burgess said he interpreted the opinion to mean Castille’s name should have never been made public in the produced emails.
“I think that should be taken up before we start messing with other citizens,” Burgess said.
The matter of whether Castille is considered a public figure in this case — and thus whether the deposition and records requests will be allowed — will be taken up at a June 27 hearing.
Edwards has already ruled in the lawsuit and found that Pope failed to comply with a court order to produce certain emails sought by The Independent. Pope has appealed and the Louisiana Criminal Code of Procedure allows a judge to order additional depositions while a case is on appeal “for use in the event of further proceedings in the district court.”
In addition to contesting the judge’s ruling on his response to the records request, Pope is asking for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal to overturn his contempt-of-court conviction and sentence that Edwards imposed.
Edwards on March 24 sentenced Pope to 30 days in jail, with all but seven days suspended and the option to serve the sentence on house arrest. Along with more than $100,000 in penalties and fines, Edwards also sentenced Pope to teach 173 hours of public records courses.
Meanwhile, the 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office is investigating a criminal complaint filed against Pope, although it has not released further information on the matter.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.