LAFAYETTE — Six of Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s employees have now testified that they were on public time when they participated in political activities with the marshal, who on Friday completed a fifth day of trial on accusations he illegally used public resources for political purposes and lied about it.
Alan Haney, the lead 15th Judicial District prosecutor on the case, has focused during the last two days of testimony on establishing that those employees engaged in those political activities on behalf of the Marshal’s Office — and thus, on public time.
Defense attorneys John McLindon and Brett Grayson have in turn worked to establish that federal law entitles employees to breaks throughout the day — that even if those employees spent a few minutes engaged in the marshal’s political bidding, it’s not necessarily a crime.
All four deputies who flanked Pope in a 2015 press conference, which triggered the marshal’s legal battles, have now testified : Phil Conrad, Rodney LeBlanc, Joseph Caillet and Dean Morgan. They said they were acting as deputy marshals when they appeared in uniform beside Pope, who read a prepared statement condemning then-candidate Sheriff Mark Garber.
Pope’s secretary, Madeline Breaux, and his accounts clerk Julie Albarado, also took the stand on Friday. They testified that they were on public time when he asked them to chime in on the color scheme for one of his campaign fundraising letters — the subject of another of Pope’s malfeasance counts.
Breaux and Albarado testified that their involvement amounted to a brief minute or two spent giving their boss an opinion on the letter’s color scheme.
During cross-examination, Breaux affirmed to McLindon that she likely spent more time pouring a cup of coffee that day than she did on the letter.
Haney countered the statement on redirect: “If somebody steals $1, is it the same as stealing $100?”
“Yes sir,” she responded.
The employee witnesses also have testified that Pope hired a criminal-defense attorney to represent them in a deposition with the District Attorney’s office, which had subpoenaed them as witnesses as they investigated the marshal.
That Pope hired the attorney for his employees, who were not the subject of a criminal investigation, is the subject of another of the marshal’s malfeasance counts.
Jurors on Friday also heard from the lawyer in question, Jonathan Jarrett, who said Pope’s lawyer at the time asked him to help represent those employees during the depositions.
The state also began to establish the foundation for another accusation against Pope: that in the weeks before the 2015 sheriff’s runoff election, he used public money to fund a legal effort to unseal Garber’s divorce records.
Pope is accused of paying Charles Middleton, who also faces criminal charges related to the allegations, to draft a motion to unseal the records. A private citizen then filed the suit in Lafayette Parish court, and Middleton billed the marshal’s office for the work.
Haney called Charles Clause, a captain with the marshal’s office, who testified that the marshal signs all checks that pay the office’s invoices.
Testimony is set to continue on Monday.
Pope faces seven felony counts: two counts of perjury and five counts of malfeasance. If convicted of a felony, Pope would be removed from office if he’s unsuccessful in appealing the conviction.
Pope is set for re-election in 2020.