NewsLafayette Parish


Judge: Pope must appear in court to prove his compliance

Brian Pope
Posted at 10:22 PM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 11:48:54-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — Suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope must appear in court on August 10 to prove he shouldn't be sent to jail.

An order signed by 15th Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards says that Pope hasn't proved that he performed the 173 hours of community service required by his probation, and so he must come to court to prove that probation shouldn't be revoked.

The sentence at issue was ordered by Edwards in August 2018, for a contempt of court ruling in the public records suit filed against Pope by The Independent Newspaper that has been ongoing since 2015.

In August 2018, Edwards reset the clock for Pope to complete 173 hours of community service - and said that Pope would face jail time should he fail to finish the work within two years.

An appeals court ruled a few weeks prior to that reset that the first sentence he imposed wasn't proper - because he sentenced Pope to community service instead of making it a term of Pope's probation.

Edwards corrected that, 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.

During that August 2018 hearing, Pope's attorney told the judge that Pope already had completed 24 hours of the 173 hours community service. The work was to be performed through litter abatement or through teaching 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. 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. But two years later, during a probation revocation hearing in March 2018, Pope had not completed the work.

Expressing impatience with Pope’s inaction, Edwards revoked the marshal’s probation during that March 2018 hearing and ordered him to complete a 30-day jail sentence. That's the sentence the appeals court overturned.

Pope’s probation under the corrected sentence was set to end on Aug. 29, 2020.

Last week, Pope qualified to run for the City Marshal post, which he has not performed since he was convicted by a jury of perjury and malfeasance in office. Because Pope would not resign, the city had to hire an interim Marshal, who has been doing the work of running the office.

Pope is appealing that conviction, but he still faces two more trials: The first is for multiple malfeasance in office charges related to his allegedly paying himself from certain fines collected by his office - after he had been advised it was illegal. That indictment was handed up in 2018.

The second trial will be for malfeasance in office charges in a 2019 indictment, which accuses him of requesting reimbursement for conference expenses from the city and pocketing that money - even though the marshal's office had already paid the expenses.

To read our story about why he was allowed to qualify, click here.

Here's the order: