Hours after the petition to force a recall election to oust Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope fell about 3,000 signatures short, deputy marshals from Pope’s office arrested one of the leaders of the recall effort.
Steve Wilkerson was arrested Monday evening on four bench warrants for four bad checks that he allegedly wrote back in 1997.
“I was completely shocked and surprised,” Wilkerson told News 15 Tuesday.
An arrest affidavit from the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office showed that Wilkerson is being charged for four bad checks that he wrote in January and February of 1997, worth a total of $200. The warrant for Wilkerson’s arrest was executed hours after the recall effort acknowledged that it had fallen short of the 27,500 signatures needed to force a recall election against Pope. The recall, initiated in June, had 180 days to gather the required signatures.
Wilkerson, who is a U.S. Army and Lafayette law enforcement veteran, says he had no idea that he even wrote those checks, let alone that there were charges pending against him.
“I’ve gone through those background checks,” Wilkerson said. “There’s never been anything that showed up in any kind of issues that I’ve had.”
He believes his arrest is an act of retaliation from Pope.
“There is no doubt, based on the timing, that this is a personal attack and even possibly a birthday gift to himself since it was his (Pope’s) birthday yesterday,” Wilkerson said.
News 15 went to Pope’s office to ask for an explanation of the curious timing of Wilkerson’s arrest. No one there was available to speak about the issue.
Wilkerson says his arrest demonstrates why he thinks Pope is unfit for office.
“i want to shine light on pope’s behavior, his criminality and i will do my best to hold him accountable. the recall campaign is transitioning from a recall campaign to a holding brian pope accountable campaign.”
he also walked into the marshal’s office himself to deliver a message.
“I want him to know that I’m not intimidated by his tactics,” Wilkerson said. “And that’s exactly what he is trying to do, intimidate.”
Wilkerson says he plans to fight the charges.
Pope, who was elected to the Lafayette City Marshal’s office in 2014, has been dogged by legal issues throughout his tenure. He is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 18 for a bail revocation hearing. He was sentenced to 173 hours of community service and 30 days in jail in 2016 for failing to comply with a court order to produce emails from his office. All but 168 hours of the community service were suspended.
He also faces a criminal trial slated to begin on Feb. 20 on seven felony counts, five of malfeasance in office and two of perjury.