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Lafayette marshal's September trial date still stands — for now - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Lafayette marshal's September trial date still stands — for now

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LAFAYETTE -

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope's upcoming felony trial date remains set for Sept. 25, although his attorneys say they don't expect the date to stand as they await evidence they say could affect the charges lodged against the marshal.

Pope appeared in court on Thursday, where Judge David Smith granted his request to lift the travel restrictions imposed on him since his indictment. Another motion by Pope's attorneys to postpone the trial date was deferred to a later date, as the marshal's defense team awaits a trove of requested information from the 15th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

That evidence would include "all exculpatory and impeachable evidence" against Pope in the case, said Brett Grayson, one of the marshal's two private attorneys.

Attorneys seek evidence of collusion

According to the motion requesting that evidence, it would include things like rap sheets or investigations, whether criminal or internal, for any witness brought forward in the case; evidence of any bargains made with witnesses; and transcripts, audio recordings and attendance records of the grand jury proceedings that led to Pope's indictment and that of his attorney, Charles Middleton, who represented the marshal in the public records lawsuit that led to his criminal indictment.

Although grand jury proceedings are usually secret, prosecutor Alan Haney said during court he has no objection to providing the information and requested that Judge David Smith order its release.

Pope's attorneys are also requesting any information that would show a link between 15th Judicial District Attorney Keith Stutes, prosecutors Danny Landry and Alan Haney, and Sheriff Mark Garber, who once served as a prosecutor for that office and whose 2015 campaign for sheriff is central to the marshal's legal battles since then. Suspecting collusion between Pope and Scott Police Chief Chad Leger, then a sheriff's candidate and Pope's political ally, The Independent sought emails related to an October 2015 press conference Pope held, in his official capacity, to attack Garber.

Pope's attorneys also seek evidence of correspondence — whether in text messages, emails, voicemails or physical letters —  between the DA's office and Gary McGoffin, who represented The Independent in its public records lawsuit.

Grayson said evidence provided through the request could serve as grounds for motions to either recuse the DA's Office from prosecuting the case or to dismiss the case on the basis of the office's "selective prosecution" of the marshal.

Grayson and Pope's other attorney, John McLindon, also suggest there won't be enough time for the DA's office to provide the information and for them to digest it, file responsive motions and then prepare for a Sept. 25 trial date.

Were personal emails improperly released? 

Meanwhile, during the Thursday hearing, the marshal's attorneys called a Lafayette Consolidated Government witness to the stand.

LCG technical services manager Ryan Mire testified that he searched the marshal's emails to respond to a December 2015 public records request from The Independent.

When faced with a non-response from the marshal in its request for some of his emails, the now-shuttered news publication made a parallel request for the information to LCG, which operates the marshal's emails services.

In previous hearings, Pope's attorneys have attempted to pose theories of back-door collusion between LCG and The Independent when that search was conducted — an effort apparently at hand again during Thursday's hearing.

Upon questioning from Grayson, Mire testified that he worked alone when retrieving the responsive emails and turned them over to his supervisor, who was to turn the information over to the city attorney. He said he knew nothing more about what happened with the information when he finished the job, including whether anyone had access to emails between Pope and his attorney — information that would have been protected from release under attorney-client privilege rules.

After the hearing, Grayson said the marshal's emails with his attorney were not released in the request, but emails of personal nature were. He said the Louisiana Supreme Court has found that personal emails, even if sent or received on a public email address, are not subject to disclosure.

Grayson said because of that, he'll seek a motion to suppress those emails from the case — an effort that could lead to the dismissal of Pope's perjury charges, which stemmed from a deposition he gave to The Independent and that was called because of those personal emails.

Pope faces seven felony counts, including two counts of perjury for alleged false statements made during depositions in the records lawsuit and five counts of malfeasance in office, all of which are related to evidence brought forth in the suit.

He's also subject to an ongoing recall effort. Read more on that effort and the marshal's first term in office here.

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