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Judge calls on DA to consider allegations against Marshal Brian - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Judge calls on DA to consider allegations against Marshal Brian Pope

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LAFAYETTE -

A judge on Wednesday decided the Independent doesn't have standing to call for revoking Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope's probation, but recent accusations lodged against the marshal could still be used against him at an upcoming probation hearing.

Judge Jules Edwards said only prosecutors have authority to "produce incarceration" through probation revocation. The opinion coincides with Pope's defense at the morning hearing, but Edwards questioned why the marshal would be "tempting, teasing the DA to look at this case."

Edwards told Pope the DA has "ample time to look at this gauntlet that you've thrown down" before the judge's next probation violation hearing on Jan. 17.

KATC reached out to DA Keith Stutes on Wednesday for comment on whether his office is looking into this issue, but he was not immediately available.

Pope is on probation until November 2018 for a misdemeanor contempt-of-court conviction in the Independent's civil lawsuit against him. Edwards found Pope deleted emails sent to and from his official government account and thus withheld them from court-ordered production.

Louisiana's Code of Criminal Procedure allows probation revocation when the defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or has committed a felony offense, Edwards said. He pointed out that the DA's office has lodged a seven-count felony indictment against Pope for malfeasance and perjury and could further assess whether the most recent allegations are grounds for revocation.

The Independent alleges Pope misappropriated public money by using Marshal's Office funds to pay his $184,000 settlement to the publication for withholding public records. They further allege he's illegally collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in city court fees that state law, state auditors and an Attorney General's opinion point out are not his to collect — a practice Pope inherited from former Marshal Nicky Picard.

The Independent also alleges Pope is again running afoul of public records law by prohibiting the release of a new AG opinion on the legality of his personal collection of those court fees.

AG Jeff Landry's office has told KATC the marshal halted communication over the opinion, so they canceled it. But spokesperson Ruth Wisher said because the opinion was not released, it remains in draft state and is exempt from public records law because of "deliberative process privilege."

Wisher said if the public wants to know the AG's opinion on the pay, an elected official would have to request it.

Meanwhile, Edwards urged Pope to "seriously reflect" on some things before the upcoming probation hearing.

Edwards spoke directly to the marshal, telling him he believes in "restorative justice," through which wrongdoers are salvaged by acknowledging their misdeeds. But he said punishments must be more severe for those who don't acknowledge their behaviors.

"Marshal Pope, you need to decide whether or not you have done anything wrong," Edwards said.

The judge said he's "rooting for" the marshal, as he does for all defendants, "that you will go from the road of destruction to the road of salvation."

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