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UPDATE: Pope given more community service

Pope will serve more probation.jpg
Posted at 1:29 PM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 19:44:51-04

LAFAYETTE, La. — UPDATE: Suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope has been sentenced to more community service.

Judge Jules Edwards had ordered Pope to his courtroom today, to determine if Pope had served a previous sentence of community service for his contempt of court conviction.

After a hearing that lasted for several hours, Edwards ruled that Pope was supposed to avoid further criminal conduct while on probation, but didn't do that. He also said that Pope lied to him twice during the hearing, and so he had a hard time believing him.

He ordered Pope to serve two more years of probation, to include 173 hours of community service, with at least eight hours of service each month of his probation.

After the ruling, Pope told KATC that he's satisfied with the Judge's decision. He denies lying to the judge, adding that he "got tripped up."

"I'll do what I have to do to make it right," he said of the additional community service.

Last week, two other judges determined that Pope wasn't qualified to run for re-election because he's not a registered voter and he still owed two fines to the state Ethics Board. Pope signed a document, under oath, stating that he was qualified.

That constituted filing and retaining a false public record, the judge said, meaning Pope was in violation of the terms of his probation.

Edwards called the hearing that began this morning in state district court to discuss Pope - the third in the past seven days - and his probation in a civil case.

Pope was found guilty of contempt of court during the course of a civil suit filed by The Independent newspaper against him over public records.

Pope was sentenced to community service for that conviction two years ago, and the judge who issued that sentence set a hearing for today because he had not received documentation that Pope had completed that service. Last week, Pope filed documents in court that he says show he picked up trash for the required hours.

But during the hearing this morning, another issue arose: did Pope commit another crime when he signed qualifying documents to run for re-election? A standard condition of probation is that the person doesn't commit another crime. The two hearings held last week, before two other judges, were on objections filed to that candidacy by the District Attorney and the state Ethics Board.

Two qualifications to run for City Marshal are that one is a registered voter, and that one does not owe any fines to the state Ethics Board. One judge ruled that Pope is not a registered voter - because of his felony convictions arising from the same case - and the other judge ruled that Pope still owes ethics fines.

At issue is his signature on the qualifying document. It is a sworn statement, and, as the Secretary of State's qualifying page states "Your candidacy may be challenged if you are not qualified to run for the office and you may be criminally charged for executing an affidavit knowing it to contain false or incorrect information."

During the hearing this morning, Gary McGoffin, attorney for The Independent, was allowed by Judge Jules Edwards to question Pope about that issue.

Court filings made last week purport to prove that he has performed 157 hours of community service in the form of litter abatement for Erath-based Quality Sports Authority. The documentation was signed by Tommy Picard, director of QSA. Also filed was documentation from Pope's parole officer, indicating he performed eight hours of litter abatement three times thru the Lafayette Sheriff's program, in December 2017, January 2018 and February 2018.

Last month, 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 documentation filed by Pope alleges that he performed a total of 181 hours of litter abatement.

It is not clear from the filings why the Judge wasn't made aware that Pope had completed his sentence; according to the QSA documentation, he completed the work in February 2019. That issue was not addressed in court this morning.

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 month, 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.

Last week, two judges ruled he's not eligible to run for re-election. To read about that, click here. Pope tells KATC he has appealed those decisions, but the Lafayette Clerk of Court has no record of any appeal. To appeal a ruling in Lafayette District Court, a person must file paperwork with the clerk, who prepares the case file, including the transcript of the proceeding, for the person to file their appeal. The clerk has no record of that paperwork for either of the rulings on Pope's candidacy.

Here's the order: