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Lafayette marshal’s trial delayed; attorneys allege ‘warrantless search’ of public emails

Posted at 11:32 AM, Apr 24, 2018
and last updated 2020-03-04 15:39:56-05

Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s criminal trial has been postponed while his attorneys seek to suppress evidence crucial to his case.

Pope appeared in parish court on Thursday for a pretrial hearing. His attorneys, Brett Grayson and John McLindon, filed a motion to suppress emails released during the public records lawsuit that led to his criminal indictment.

“It was a warrantless search,” McLindon said after the hearing.

In their argument to suppress those emails from evidence, Pope’s attorneys cite a federal law pertaining to “unlawful access to stored communications.”

According to the U.S. Justice Department, the law is aimed at “hackers and corporate spies.” But Pope’s attorneys argue it prohibits the disclosure of email contents.

They also cite a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling involving the former director of Jefferson Parish economic development. In that case, the state’s high court ruled the director’s political emails are subject to disclosure, but the identifying information of private citizens must be redacted.

“When you take those two together, there’s nothing that can be released,” Grayson said after the hearing.

Lafayette Consolidated Government produced some of Pope’s emails in a public records request after the marshal refused to release them to The Independent, a Lafayette news organization.

LCG hosts the marshal’s email address and stores backups of all messages sent to and from the account.

The emails produced through the records request, which included political correspondence, did not redact identifying information of private individuals.

The motions will be heard on Dec. 7. Pope’s trial has been postponed until Feb. 20.

State files details of criminal indictment

The state’s recent bill of particulars filed in the case gives more detail on the specific charges lodged against the marshal.

  1. Perjury: Pope is accused of lying under oath during a Dec. 28, 2015, deposition in the records lawsuit. Prosecutors allege Pope lied when he denied authorizing the mass distribution of a press conference announcement for an event that turned out to be a political event on public time.
  1. Perjury: In the same deposition, Pope is accused of lying in denying that he had been working with Hilary “Joe” Castille, then campaign manager in Scott Police Chad Chief Leger’s bid for sheriff. Pope and Leger at the time had both professed their friendship and political alliance. The press conference in question accused Sheriff Mark Garber, then Leger’s opponent, of encouraging illegal immigration.
  1. Malfeasance: Pope is accused of using his public employees to draft a fundraising letter for his personal campaign.
  1. Malfeasance: This count accuses Pope of breaking the law when he hosted the Oct. 7, 2015, press conference central to his case by using public funds and time for political purposes. The event was held at his office during business hours and while he was flanked by uniformed deputy marshals.
  1. Malfeasance: Pope is accused of using public funds for political purposes by allegedly paying a private citizen to sue to unseal Garber’s divorce records.
  1. Malfeasance: Pope is accused of paying an attorney to represent his employees “during questioning in a criminal matter in which they were not targets of an investigation,” an alleged illegal use of public funds.
  1. Malfeasance: After Pope was convicted of contempt-of-court in the public records lawsuit for failing to produce the records, the marshal used public funds to pay an attorney to appeal the conviction.