LAFAYETTE, La. — Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope appeared in court on Thursday for a final scheduled hearing before his September trial.
Pope’s attorneys asked 15th Judicial District Judge David Smith to quash the marshal’s felony indictment, but Smith denied the motion. He did not give reasons for the denial.
Pope’s attorneys, Brett Grayson and John McLindon, argued in a recent court filing that the marshal is the subject of "vindictive prosecution" for expressing his constitutionally protected opinion on illegal immigration.
They claimed the state "purposely and deliberately singled him out for prosecution because the alleged offenses arise out of the defendant’s exercise of his First Amendment right to express his opinion about an obvious failure to hold illegal alien offenders accountable."
Pope held a press conference during the 2015 Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s election, in which he condemned a practice against booking people for misdemeanor offenses, including if they were undocumented immigrants.
During the press event, Pope tied the practice to then-candidate Mark Garber — now sheriff, who at the time practiced workers compensation law and represented Spanish-speaking clients — and encouraged Garber of encouraging illegal immigration. The press conference happened weeks before the runoff election.
Pope lost a public-records lawsuit related to that press conference, and evidence uncovered through those civil proceedings led to the marshal’s indictment on accusations he lied under oath and used public money for the benefit of a political ally running against Garber.
One of Pope’s seven felony counts is directly related to that press conference. A grand jury found evidence to indict him on malfeasance for hosting the press conference on public time. For more on the rest of the allegations against him, which include lying under oath and misusing public money, click here.
Pope’s attorneys also had subpoenaed local TV stations, including KATC TV3, for their coverage of former Marshal Nicky Picard’s 2014 endorsement of Pope. They did not make any arguments about that endorsement in court or in the court filings.
They also subpoenaed Assistant District Attorney Celeste White and Leslie Turk, who worked for The Independent when it sued Pope over his refusal to turn over public records. It’s unclear why. Pope’s attorneys withdrew the subpoenas during Thursday’s hearing.
Pope’s trial is set for Sept. 24.
A motion for change of venue still stands. Smith had previously ruled that if the attorneys find they can’t seat an impartial jury when trial begins, they’ll relocate the proceedings.