by Lanie Lee Cook
A district judge late Thursday sentenced Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope to serve seven days in jail and pay almost $100,000 in penalties, attorney fees and court costs after finding him guilty of contempt of court for withholding public records sought by a Lafayette news organization.
Fifteenth Judicial District Judge Jules Edwards handed down a 30-day jail sentence against Pope, with all but seven of those days suspended, and ordered him to surrender to the Lafayette Parish jail by Monday. Edwards said Pope will be allowed to serve the sentence on house arrest, but he will remain on unsupervised probation until 2021.
Pope also has been ordered to pay $18,800 in penalties and more than $77,900 in attorney fees and court costs in the case, which began when The Independent sued the marshal for refusing to release certain emails sent to and from Pope’s public email account.
The judge also ordered Pope to perform 173 hours of instruction on public records law. Those community-service hours of instruction represent the 173 legal days that lapsed before Pope produced an encompassing response to The Independent’s two public records requests, which sought emails that showed he used his public position, facilities and resources as a platform for Scott Police Chief Chad Leger’s unsuccessful campaign for sheriff.
Edwards said he found Pope “intentionally withheld the public records” and “intentionally misused his public office,” adding that evidence produced throughout the lawsuit serves as potential grounds to investigate the marshal for perjury and malfeasance in office.
A Costly Public Records Case