A who’s who on the Pope trial witness list 

Photo by Robin May
City Marshal Brian Pope exits a hearing in August.

▸ The gist: City Marshal Brian Pope’s attorneys subpoenaed 20 witnesses to appear at his trial, among them Sheriff Mark Garber and his ex-wife Rachel, District Attorney Keith Stutes, mayoral adviser Joe Castille and some of Pope’s former attorneys, including Charles Middleton. Pope’s trial is currently in jury selection. The characters in the trial are a reminder of just how zany the Pope saga has been over the past three years. Here’s a refresher on some of the role players. 

Sheriff Mark Garber is where the whole thing begins. Pope’s original offense was an official press conference attacking then-candidate Garber. Email records obtained by The Independent (RIP) later revealed that the stunt was orchestrated with Chad Leger’s failed campaign. Denying that (ahem) collusion is at the heart of Pope’s two perjury charges. The conference itself figures into two of Pope’s malfeasance charges.

Joe Castille was Leger’s campaign manager. Emails show that Castille supplied Pope with the press conference language, a fact which Pope denied under oath in a deposition. Castille also ran Joel Robideaux’s 2015 campaign for mayor-president and continues to serve as an adviser to Robideaux. He’s heavily involved in the mayor-president’s cryptocurrency play. 

Troyce Thorla, a private citizen and former cop, signed an affidavit in Garber’s law office certifying that Pope enlisted him to sue to unseal the Garbers’ 2013 divorce proceedings (the divorce didn’t take that time; they ultimately divorced in 2016). Thorla’s affidavit claims Pope was after video footage of Garber running naked in the street after Rachel caught him in bed with another woman, a video which apparently doesn’t exist. Thorla has surfaced on Facebook recently claiming the Pope trial is after the wrong man. His testimony could be explosive. Rachel Garber was called by Pope’s defense team.

Jason Redmond, a political operative, was implicated in the Thorla affair when his name appeared in a billed item on an invoice filed by Pope’s attorney, Charles Middleton. The “Redmond Motion,” as it was called on the invoice, turned out to be the suit Thorla filed to unseal Garber’s divorce proceedings. Redmond appeared before the grand jury that indicted Pope in 2016. He told The Independent then that he had nothing to do with the Thorla scheme. Redmond was called by the DA and later added by the defense.

Charles Middleton served as Pope’s first defense attorney in the marshal’s civil suit with The Independent. Middleton’s role as a go-between on the Thorla affair led to his own indictment on perjury charges. Records indicate that Pope paid Middleton to draft the suit Thorla filed, the alleged crime behind one of Pope’s malfeasance charges. There’s reason to believe that Pope will marshal (ugh, why?) a defense that he acted on the advice of his attorneys, an insight gained in his attorneys’ extraordinary (and failed) request for special jury instructions.

District Attorney Keith Stutes was removed from the witness list this week. Pope previously attempted to make a selective prosecution defense and has claimed that Stutes was in cahoots to destroy him.

IND attorney Gary McGoffin and Assistant City Attorney Michael Hebert 
figure into a conspiracy theory concocted by Pope, in which the attorneys and former LCG Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley illegally accessed the marshal’s email server. 

▸  Yes, this is a circus. 
Over the last three years, Pope’s legal troubles have spun an impressive yarn. All along, Pope has maintained his innocence and characterized the prosecution as a witch hunt. Even if Pope is convicted, he’ll likely complete his term as city marshal, which ends in 2020, while he appeals. Meanwhile, the district attorney brought seven new felony charges against Pope for illegally paying himself with garnishment fees

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