High drama in court over Pope sentencing

Photo by Travis Gauthier
Disgraced Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope reported to LPCC shortly after noon today and was shipped out to the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena.

The gist: While disgraced former City Marshal Brian Pope was saying his good-byes to his family this morning ahead of reporting to the Lafayette Parish jail to begin serving his year-long sentence, his attorney was back in court maneuvering for more special treatment.

Now there is a big question about where Pope will ultimately do his time and for how long.

Attorney Brett Grayson filed several motions two days ago. By law, Grayson had 30 days to ask for reconsideration of the sentence handed down last month — three years in jail for each of Pope’s three 2018 malfeasance convictions with all but one year suspended. As he did at that sentencing, Grayson again asked District Judge David Smith to allow the year Pope spent under GPS monitoring from June 2019 to June 2020 as a condition of his bail to count toward his sentence. Alternatively, Grayson asked that the judge delay the sentence or allow Pope to serve his time at David Wade Correctional Center in Homer, a Louisiana Department of Corrections facility. “The facility affords protection to former police officers and government employees not available in parish prisons,” Grayson wrote in the pleading.

The latter requires a re-sentencing of hard labor. And unlike a parish sentence which is “day for day,” meaning Pope would be more likely to spend most of the next year in a jail cell (sheriffs do maintain some leniency for good behavior, home confinement with an ankle monitor as part of a diversionary program, etc.), he’d be out of a DOC facility in a few months. “[A parish jail sentence] is at least significantly more time than DOC,” says Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney. “It’s up to individual sheriffs.”

ADA Alan Haney answers reporters’ questions outside of the Lafayette Parish Courthouse after then-Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope’s 2018 convictions.

To Haney’s astonishment, the judge granted the request to re-sentence Pope to hard labor. Rising to his feet, Haney objected. “I pointed to the defendants in the courtroom and said, ‘Judge, you would never do this for any of them,’” the ADA tells me in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I’m tired of Pope getting special treatment,” Haney continues, sounding more exasperated. Haney cites as examples of special treatment the judge giving Pope two weeks to report for sentencing and Smith’s decision to have Sheriff Mark Garber determine whether Pope had served his time while out on bond when it was Smith himself who set the conditions allowing Pope to remain out of jail while he exhausted his appeals. Smith’s punt to Garber was extraordinary, legal observers tell The Current — not to mention that Pope’s legal problems stemmed from a bizarre press conference he held in 2015 to attack Garber, then a candidate for sheriff, over his position on undocumented immigrants.

Pope, however, wasn’t sent to David Wade after reporting to LPCC at noon today. “He was transported to the LaSalle Detention Center for his own safety because he was a law enforcement officer in this parish,” says Lt. John Mowell, Garber’s public information officer. The former lawman was processed into the parish center, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Jena, at 3:10 p.m. today, Mowell says. Pope’s 2015 election stunt accused Garber of abetting illegal immigration as an attorney in private practice, using his pulpit as city marshal to go after the sheriff as he was first seeking office. 

When asked about the judge’s decision earlier today to re-sentence Pope to hard labor, Mowell said, “We don’t have any different orders from the judge.” Because of Smith’s decision Wednesday, it’ll be up to the DOC whether Pope serves out his time at LaSalle.

Grayson, Pope’s attorney, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.