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Hearing reset in Brian Pope's suit against Lafayette attorney

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Posted at 3:00 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-10 14:22:43-04

LAFAYETTE, La. (KATC) — A hearing has been set for March in a lawsuit filed by suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope against a newspaper's lawyer.

In October 2018, Pope was found guilty on one count of perjury and three counts of malfeasance in office, stemming from a public records dispute with The Independent.

The judge granted his motion to vacate the perjury conviction. He's been sentenced to a year in jail plus restitution of $11,700 and 240 hours community service, but that's on hold while he appeals the three malfeasance convictions.

Meanwhile, in October 2019, Pope filed suit against the Independent's attorney, Gary McGoffin.

He accuses McGoffin of "malicious prosecution" because McGoffin filed complaints against him with the district attorney that allegedly led to the indictment, and because McGoffin testified against him at the trial.

Pope is asking the court to award him money for mental anguish and attorney's fees.

Pope's suit claims that McGoffin instigated the case against him in retaliation for Pope's comments about immigration policies at the press conference that started everything.

The Independent's public records requests were about that press conference, which Pope held during the election for Lafayette Sheriff; one of the candidates (who is now the sheriff) was at the time an attorney who had made comments to overseas press about immigration matters.

McGoffin's response points out that he didn't prosecute Pope because he has never been a prosecutor in any jurisdiction at any time during his more than 40 years as an attorney.

He also argues that he can't be sued for filing a complaint with the District Attorney, or for testifying at the DA's request, because the law prohibits it.

Lastly, he points out that the lawsuit was filed more than one year after the alleged improper actions on McGoffin's part, which means the claim has prescribed.

McGoffin asks the court to dismiss the suit based on the law, and requests that the court award him attorneys' fees from Pope.

It is that motion that is set for hearing next month.

Pope still faces two other indictments; one accuses him of taking fees as part of his compensation that he allegedly wasn't supposed to use, and another accuses him of attending a conference on the marshal's office dime and requesting - and receiving - reimbursement from the city, which he allegedly deposited into his personal account.

Hearings in those cases are set for March.

He also faces similar charges filed against him by the Louisiana Ethics Board.

In addition to his pending criminal cases, Pope is a defendant in a civil suit.

Last fall, Assistant City Attorney Mike Hebert filed suit against Pope, asking for reimbursement of the $15,000 deductible on his insurance.

Hebert had to file a claim with his insurance company when Pope sued him, along with other city officials, following his indictment in the Independent case.

In that federal lawsuit, Pope alleged that city officials had violated the law when they complied with The Independent's public records request for Pope's emails - which were stored on city servers.

The discrepancies between what Pope produced and what the city produced in response to the same request gave rise to the suit by the newspaper against Pope - because Pope denied that some emails existed, and then the city produced the emails in question.

The lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge.

Hebert's suit claims that, while his insurance company did handle his defense in the lawsuit, he still had to pay a $15,000 deductible.

Since the suit was dismissed, Pope should pay him back for that, the suit alleges.

Last fall, Pope attempted to have that lawsuit dismissed, but all of his arguments were rejected by the state court judge presiding over the case.

The most recent development is a request by Pope's attorney for more time to appeal those dismissals.