(The Advertiser)– Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope was sentenced to 30 days in jail after District Court Judge Jules Edwards ruled Thursday night that Pope broke public records law by refusing to release email correspondence to The Independent.
The emails sought by the IND show correspondence between himself, Scott Police Chief and former Chad Leger and a Leger campaign staffer leading up to and after a press conference held in Pope’s office in which Pope called out Leger’s then-opponent Mark Garber.
Edwards sentenced Pope to a month in jail, suspending all but 7 days. The marshal was also ordered to pay The Ind’s attorney fees and penalties amounting to about $100,000. He will also have to serve 173 hours of community service instructing government employees on public records law.
Pope will also pay the attorney fees for the state-mandated punitive $17,300 fine — $100 per day the public records were not released.
“This is what these laws are for,” IND attorney Gary McGoffin said.
Edwards deliberated for about two hours after McGoffin and Pope’s attorney, Kevin Stockstill, delivered their closing arguments.
Stockstill argued that any punishment rendered today would constitute double jeopardy in the case, as Edwards ordered that Pope and the city marshal’s office pay “in solido” The Independent’s attorney’s fees.
The Independent’s suit concerned the release of emails relating to a press conference Pope held Oct. 7 condemning Lafayette Parish Sheriff candidate Mark Garber for allegedly encouraging illegal immigrants to come to Louisiana and file worker’s compensation claims without fear of being deported.
The Independent, in an attempt to expose what they believe was a connection between Pope and Garber’s opponent Chad Leger, filed a request the next day for emails containing keywords they believed would prove collusion between Pope and Leger.
The request sought emails containing the keywords “‘Garber,” “Neustrom,” “Chad,” “Leger,” “immigration,” “Honduras,” ‘worker,” “compensation,” “illegal,” “alien,” “haven,” “Castille,” “Team Leger,” “personal injury,” “campaign,” “campaigner” and “mailing list.”
Pope outright refused to provide email records to The Independent because they asked for any and all emails, saying that there existed emails containing the keywords requested by the monthly publication, but they wouldn’t produce anything worthwhile.
But, three separate investigations uncovered emails between Pope and Leger as well as Pope and Leger campaign consultant Joe Castille. In the emails, Castille gives Pope a draft of the Oct. 7 press release and note cards. Castille also outlines talking points for a Oct. 8 radio interview with KPEL on immigration.
In the conference, Pope also alleged that Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom and Corrections Director Rob Reardon were refusing to let the city marshal and other law enforcement agencies in the parish book illegal immigrants. Pope said to the press during the conference that exactly 611 illegal immigrants had warrants out for their arrests due to LPSO’s alleged policy.
When pressed by Acadiana Advocate reporter Lanie Cook to elaborate on the number, Pope said that there were currently 80 warrants out for people who identified as Hispanic, and then 531 of what he called “other,” which he said were warrants were the race was unknown. Pope said he didn’t know how many of the 80 warrants out for Hispanic people were actually illegal.