Suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope wants his four felony convictions from Oct. 3, 2018, overturned.
His attorneys, Brett Grayson and John McLindon, filed a motion Monday in 15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette asking that jury convictions on one count of perjury and three counts of malfeasance be thrown out.
The move comes as his sentencing date of April 3 approaches. Pope has been free since his Oct. 3 conviction, but has been suspended without pay since that day.
Pope also has an April 4 court date for an additional 17 felony charges of malfeasance in office related to allegations he, after receiving a Louisiana Attorney General opinion advising against it, continued to supplement his salary in 2018 with fees that are supposed to be used for expenses of the office.
In November 2016, a grand jury indicted Pope on two counts of perjury and five counts of malfeasance, all felonies, stemming from an October 2015 press conference Pope conducted at his office criticizing Mark Garber, a candidate for sheriff running against Chad Leger, who Pope endorsed, and a public records request, lawsuit and deposition of Pope by The Independent news organization.
The motion for acquittal filed Monday alleges his prosecution and a civil lawsuit filed by The Independent "constituted retaliation for Marshal Pope's exercise of his freedom of expression under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."
Pope's attorneys allege in the motion that there is insufficient evidence to support a perjury verdict against their client. The jury convicted Pope of allegedly committing perjury while under oath during a December 2015 deposition in The Independent's public records lawsuit in civil court. The attorneys assert Pope did not intend to invite to the October 2015 press conference all those invited through a Campaigner email he authorized Hilary Joe Castille, a Leger campaign adviser, to send.
"Errors and misunderstandings are not the basis for a perjury charge," they wrote.
The attorneys also argue that questioning by The Independent's attorney, Gary McGoffin, went beyond the scope of the public records request and lawsuit and "were more in the nature of a news investigation."
Pope also should not have been convicted of the three malfeasance charges, the attorneys allege, because of insufficient evidence Pope intentionally used public funds to:
- pay an attorney to draft and file a motion to unseal Garber's divorce records during the election, a claim they say is supported by testimony of a city marshal employee that Pope did not examine the bill from the attorney.
- pay an attorney to represent his employees during questioning by the District Attorney's Office about a criminal matter in which they were not the targets, because Pope was acting on the advice of counsel.
- pay an attorney for services connected to his contempt of court charge filed by a judge after Pope failed to provide all the public records The Independent requested. Again, the attorneys argue Pope was advised by an attorney to pay for the services of another attorney in the case and the contempt charge arose from a civil matter related to the City Marshal's Office.
The jury in Pope's October 2018 trial found him not guilty on three other perjury and malfeasance charges.