Suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope on Wednesday was sentenced to one year in jail on three felony malfeasance convictions, nearly nine months after a jury delivered the guilty verdicts. Judge David Smith of the 15th Judicial District reversed a fourth conviction for perjury moments before sentencing Pope to jail time.
A Lafayette jury in October found Pope guilty on one count of perjury and three counts of malfeasance in office after he was accused of lying in a December 2015 deposition and using public money to hire personal attorneys in 2016. Pope's attorneys moved for reversal of all four convictions.
Pope is to report to jail on June 28. His attorney, John McLindon, said he "can pretty much guarantee" the three malfeasance convictions will be overturned in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
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Nineteen additional malfeasance charges are pending against Pope. In May, he pleaded not guilty to two charges that he illegally deposited into his personal account more than $3,200 in reimbursements that should have gone to the Marshal's Office. He was indicted in December on 17 malfeasance charges that allege he personally kept nearly $85,000 in court fees in 2018 that a Louisiana Attorney General opinion suggested should have been deposited in the Marshal's Office account. His trial on those charges is scheduled for Aug. 26.
Pope's sentencing on the malfeasance and perjury convictions was previously scheduled for April 3, but Smith postponed it to wait for trial transcripts he said he needed to consider Pope's acquittal motion. Smith technically sentenced Pope to three years in jail for each malfeasance conviction, with the sentences to run concurrently and all but one year of jail time suspended.
Pope was also sentenced to 240 hours of community service, and must pay $11,700 in restitution.
The malfeasance convictions centered on three instances in which Pope used public money to pay for attorney services not related to the Marhsal's Office. In one case, he was trying to unseal the divorce records of Mark Garber, who was running against Pope's ally, Scott Police Chief Chad Leger, in the 2015 election for Lafayette Parish Sheriff.
Pope's legal troubles originated with his October 2015 press conference criticizing Garber in the run up to the election. He fought The Independent newspaper's public records requests for information about the press conference, which he had coordinated with Leger's political consultant, Joe Castille. The perjury conviction centered on his sworn denial that he authorized Castille to issue a news release with Pope's official email address.
Pope's attorneys argued that Pope's deposition responses resulted from his "errors and misunderstandings" concerning Castille's email software, and that The Independent's attorney hadn't asked concise questions. Smith agreed, even as he praised the jury, which he said was "fantastic" and "extremely attentive."
Lead prosecutor Alan Haney previewed one of the other two cases against Pope in arguing for jail time, above strenuous objections from Pope's lawyers. Under Haney's questioning, Interim Marshal Michael Hill testified at the sentencing hearing that after stepping into the job last year he soon discovered that city-parish government had reimbursed the Marshal's Office for conference expenses, but that Pope had not deposited the reimbursement into Marshal's Office accounts.
The conference expenses were paid with Marshal's Office funds early last year, Hill testified. Haney noted that Pope was awaiting trial at the time.
"He double dips and gets paid again," Haney said. "He hasn't learned his lesson."