LAFAYETTE, La. — A judge has reset the clock for Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope to complete 173 hours of community service, although the marshal will still have to face jail time should he fail to finish the work within two years.
An appeals court earlier this month ruled that 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards illegally sentenced the marshal to perform community service, a penalty he imposed as part of a contempt-of-court conviction. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals said community service is not an allowable penalty for contempt of court.
Edwards corrected the sentence in a hearing on Wednesday and made the community service part of Pope’s probation terms. He reinstated a 30-day jail sentence — with all but 7 days suspended and with credit for time served — should the marshal fail to comply with the terms of his probation.
Pope had no comment after leaving the courthouse this morning following a hearing.
Edwards responded to the ruling by apologizing to Pope.
Edwards also thanked Pope’s latest attorney, Michael Walsh, for sending the case to the appeals court to check his work. Walsh works for Taylor, Porter, Brooks, & Phillips, which is the Baton Rouge-based law firm that represents the Lafayette City Marshal’s Office.
Walsh said in court that the marshal had already completed 24 hours of the 173 hours community service he now must complete in probation. The work can be performed through litter abatement or through teaching public instruction on how to comply with public-records law.
This case stems from a lawsuit filed by the Independent Weekly on the marshal’s refusal to turn over some public records.
Edwards has presided over the public-records lawsuit against Pope since late 2015, when The Independent sued him for refusing to turn over emails sent to and from his government account. Edwards convicted the marshal of contempt-of-court in that case, as some of the requested records had been deleted from Pope’s email account by the time he was court-ordered to release them.
Pope had been ordered since March 2016 to complete 173 hours of public instruction on Louisiana’s public records law by November. As of a probation revocation hearing in March, Pope had not completed the work.
Expressing impatience with Pope’s inaction, Edwards revoked the marshal’s probation during that hearing and ordered him to complete a 30-day jail sentence, which is what the appeals court recently ruled on Aug. 9.
Edwards said that Pope’s probation was effective today and will end on Aug. 29, 2020.