LAFAYETTE, La. — Prosecutors have refused charges against the co-chair of an effort to recall Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope, who faced an arrest by the marshal’s deputies as soon as the recall effort failed — and on a 20-year-old warrant for less than $200 in bad checks.
As soon as the recall effort fell short of the signatures needed for a recall election, Pope’s deputies arrested Steven Wilkerson on a misdemeanor warrant for four counts of issuing worthless checks.
First Assistant District Attorney Danny Landry said the two-year statute of limitations on the misdemeanor charges expired.
“They were refused because the case has prescribed,” Landry said.
‘Another unlawful misuse of his office’
Wilkerson said he learned Monday that the charges would not be prosecuted. In a statement, he reiterated his concern that the arrest was “unlawful” and an “act of retaliation.”
“I appreciate that this was reviewed and quickly dealt with by our District Attorney’s Office. The fact that the statute of limitations had been expired for 18 years, and that the notification of pending charges as prescribed by law never occurred prior to the arrest, both seem like things that would have been important to the Lafayette City Marshal’s arresting officers and Mr. Pope as head of his agency. If Brian Pope after 28 years of serving warrants was ‘just doing his job’ as his office claims, then he could have used basic law enforcement skills to determine that not only was the alleged offenses 18 years beyond prosecution, but also that an arrest based on such is unlawful. That is basic police academy 101 stuff. As such, this leads to the conclusion that my unlawful arrest was an act of retaliation and yet another unlawful misuse of his office by Brian Pope.”
According to the arrest affidavit, Wilkerson was accused of writing four bad checks from January-February 1997. The combined value of the checks totaled less than $200. Two of the businesses that would have reported the bad checks two decades ago no longer exist.
Wilkerson co-organized the recall effort against the marshal, who faces a seven-count felony indictment on charges of malfeasance and perjury and is set to stand trial on Feb. 20.
Long list of issues plague marshal’s first term
Pope is accused of political activity on the public’s dime and of lying under oath about those activities, and he’s also accused of misusing public money to fund his related criminal defense.
Pope is already on probation for a misdemeanor contempt-of-court conviction in a public records lawsuit — a charge for which he served a seven-day sentence on house arrest.
In that case, a judge found Pope deleted emails sent to and from his government email account in effort to evade a public records request that sought to expose those activities.
The judge also ordered Pope to pay The Independent — the now-shuttered publication that sued the marshal for those emails — around $100,000 in penalties and attorneys fees for refusing to abide by Louisiana Public Records Law.
The marshal has also delayed requesting and blocked the release of a long-recommended Attorney General’s opinion that found he cannot personally collect some city court fees that have been doubling his six-figure income — a practice that also happened under his predecessor Nicky Picard’s watch.