Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope begins house-arrest sentence
Brian Pope booking photo 8/18/16
Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope began serving his seven-day house arrest sentence on Wednesday, just a week after the state Supreme Court denied reconsidering his punishment for withholding public records.
Pope's penalty, for a misdemeanor count of contempt of court, stems from Lafayette alt-monthly The Independent's public records lawsuit against him. Fifteenth Judicial Judge Jules Edwards earlier this year found Pope intentionally withheld his official emails from the publication.
Edwards handed the marshal a 30-day suspended jail sentence, with all but seven days to be served on house arrest. The judge also ordered Pope to perform nearly 200 hours of community service teaching public records law.
Appellate courts at both the district and state level found the sentence to be justified.
The Independent sought emails to and from Pope's official email account that ultimately showed he used his public office to influence the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's campaign for the benefit of his political ally, Scott Police Chief Chad Leger — then a candidate against now-Sheriff Mark Garber.
Pope initially denied the request, claiming the records were exempt from disclosure for law enforcement reasons, then later stated the records did not exist at all.
Once he did produce the records, dozens that showed his direct collusion with Leger's campaign were not included and had been erased from his computer. The deleted emails were instead recovered Lafayette Consolidated Government's backup servers.
Pope now faces felony criminal charges in the ongoing saga, which began in October 2015 when Pope held an official press conference to accuse Garber, then a sheriff's candidate, of encouraging illegal immigration. The press conference is what sparked The Independent's initial request.
Two counts of perjury stem from false statements Pope made in sworn testimony during the lawsuit, through which he denied any involvement with Leger's campaign — claims disproved in his email records.
Another three counts of misuse of public funds stem from those emails and the political activities contained therein.
A pretrial hearing in the case is set for January.
If convicted of perjury, the first-term marshal could face fines up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison on each count and up to $1,000 in fines and two years in prison on each count of misusing public funds.
Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney is prosecuting the case.