Suspended marshal gets one year in jail, home confinement eligibility unknown

Photo by Travis Gauthier
Suspended City Marshal Brian Pope, center, with his criminal defense attorneys after his June 19 sentencing

The gist: Brian Pope, the first-term Lafayette city marshal who was suspended from office in October after being convicted by a Lafayette Parish jury on four felonies, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in the parish jail for each of three malfeasance convictions with all but one year suspended. The sentences will run at the same time, 15th Judicial District Judge David Smith decided, and it remains unclear whether Pope will serve that one year in one of Sheriff Mark Garber’s jail cells or under home confinement.

Smith acquitted Pope on the fourth conviction, for perjury, saying evidence was not sufficient to prove Pope understood how the software political consultant Joe Castille used to distribute a press advisory worked. The jury found Pope guilty of lying about authorizing Castille, who at the time was Chad Leger’s campaign consultant, to use his official email address to send out a media advisory for a bizarre 2015 press conference attacking Leger’s then-opponent, Garber, via a mass distribution service called Campaigner. Garber went on to win the election, and The Independent newspaper sued Pope for access to public records about his role in the smear campaign after he refused to hand over the records. That civil suit led to the criminal charges against Pope.

Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney vowed in court to appeal the judge’s decision to overturn the jury’s perjury conviction, and Pope’s attorneys plan to appeal the malfeasance convictions.

As a first offender who was not convicted of a violent crime, Pope may qualify for Garber’s Alternative Sentencing Program, which would allow him to serve a year under home confinement wearing an ankle monitor (read more on the eligibility requirements here). But unlike the recent sentencing of former Knight Oil Tools CEO Mark Knight, in which the same judge specifically stated that he did not have “any objection to any sheriff’s programs,” there was no mention of the program for Pope Wednesday. After the sentencing, Haney, who called interim City Marshal Mike Hill to testify about additional charges Pope is facing for allegedly stealing funds from his office, told me he was unsure whether Pope would spend any time in the parish jail. The ADA, who repeatedly pleaded with Smith for jail time, says the matter is out of his hands now. Haney and District Attorney Keith Stutes said the sheriff does have some discretion in who is admitted into the program.

The sheriff’s office had not received anything from the court by Wednesday afternoon; Pope has to report for booking at noon on June 28.

Sheriff’s department Public Information Officer John Mowell says Pope will be treated like any other offender. “We have to see what the judge’s official order is in the documents we receive,” Mowell says.

“We may need some clarification from the court,” Jay Prather, the sheriff’s assistant legal counsel, tells me.

Smith also ordered Pope to pay $11,700 in restitution for using funds from the marshal’s office to pay a local attorney to appeal his criminal contempt conviction in the civil public records case and for hiring a criminal defense attorney to accompany his employees to a meeting with the district attorney while he himself was under criminal investigation. By law, Pope should have used his personal funds to hire those attorneys. Pope also will serve two years of active supervised probation after his one-year incarceration, perform 240 hours of community service and pay $1,500 in court costs.

What’s next? Pope will remain suspended until his appeals process plays out. His police certification was revoked by the Louisiana Peace Officer Standards and Training Council on Dec. 6 because of his malfeasance conviction, and he still faces state ethics charges and 19 more malfeasance charges. He will be back in court Aug. 26 on 17 of those charges.

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About the Author

A founding editor of both The Independent and ABiz and senior editor at The Times of Acadiana in the 1990s, Leslie Turk has worked in the newspaper business in Lafayette for almost three decades. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times and The Acadiana Advocate. Email her at leslie@thecurrentla.com.

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