Bobby Sneed released after months-long fight with state parole board

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After nearly half a century in prison and a months-long legal battle with the Louisiana Parole Board, Bobby Sneed, a former prisoner at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, was released on Friday after the parole board accepted a settlement to seek.

Under the settlement, Sneed agreed to drop its state and federal lawsuits against the board of directors. He must also follow a 28-day drug treatment program. And the board agreed to stay a parole revocation proceeding – for suspected drug use in prison – against Sneed.

“Based on Mr. Sneed’s statement that he requested a drug treatment program, his recognition that he has a drug problem, and his continued desire to receive a drug treatment program,” the Louisiana Committee on Parole accepts this recognition, accepts that Mr. Sneed complete the drug rehab program as a condition of parole, and accepts that no further revocation or adverse parole proceedings… ”, reads -on in the regulations.

The deal represents a sea change in stance for board members, who have fought diligently for months to keep Sneed locked up – rejecting settlement offers, appealing multiple release orders and last month, issuing a warrant for re-arrest after being released from Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. As recently as November, Attorney General Jeff Landry – whose office represented the parole board – called Sneed, 75, a “violent offender” who, if released, would threaten the safety of the citizens of Canada. Louisiana and would help increase crime rates.

For Sneed, however, the terms are basically what he’s been advocating since last spring, when prison officials first claimed he used drugs in prison – after being granted parole in March. from last year but before his release. At the time, Thomas Frampton, Sneed’s attorney, wrote a letter to Louisiana Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, James LeBlanc, urging authorities to end the disciplinary proceedings and proposing to make inpatient drug treatment a condition of Sneed’s parole. .

The prison continued proceedings, but at a hearing in May, Sneed was acquitted of the alleged offense by the prison disciplinary board. Yet days later, in an unusual move – and one which Frampton said violated state policy – the council withdrew his parole anyway, citing the same offense as discipline officials from the prison found to be unfounded. It was a decision that led to protracted litigation in state and federal courts, and which the Louisiana Supreme Court ultimately ruled violated Sneed’s due process rights.

Last month, following the state Supreme Court’s ruling, Sneed was released from Angola on the orders of a state judge. But he was immediately re-arrested and sent to West Feliciana Parish Prison, pursuant to a warrant issued by the parole board on the basis of another alleged drug offense that occurred while Sneed was in prison. Angola. The commission said it would initiate revocation proceedings against Sneed, prompting him to file a new habeas corpus petition in federal court, again alleging that the parole board’s actions were illegal.

This petition is what ultimately led to the settlement agreement reached last week and finalized on Monday.

In a statement Tuesday morning, Frampton questioned the parole board’s motives:

“If the Parole Board cared about Bobby’s constitutional rights, he would have been absent on March 29,” when he was scheduled to be released for the first time last year, Frampton said. “If they cared about drug treatment, he would have got it in jail. If they cared about taxpayer dollars, they would have accepted our December offer to drop its civil rights demands. But in the end, I think the appearance that there was a conspiracy going on to deprive Bobby of his civil rights – a federal crime – was the last straw.

Francis Abbott, executive director of the Louisiana Pardons Council and Parole Board, declined to comment on Sneed’s release or the settlement. A spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, as well as a spokesperson for Landry’s office, did not respond to requests for comment.

Parole granted, then forfeited

Sneed was sentenced in 1975 to Bienville Parish for his role as a lookout during an armed robbery in which a man was killed. Despite being two blocks from where the murder took place, Sneed was charged with “second degree principal murder” and sentenced to life in prison.

A Vietnam veteran, Sneed had no criminal history prior to the incident, according to a parole case prepared by the LSU Law Clinic ahead of Sneed’s parole hearing in March last year. And when he applied for parole, members of the parole board were in awe of his criminal record. In less than 20 minutes, they unanimously granted his parole.

But days before his scheduled release, Sneed collapsed in prison. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was treated for various ailments, including pneumonia and COVID-19. The next day, while still in hospital, Francis Abbott, the executive director of the parole board, sent an email asking a member of his staff to stop the paperwork on the release of Sneed.

At one point, prison officials administered a drug test, which found Sneed to be positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines. When Sneed was released from the hospital, he was returned to Angola and sent to solitary confinement pending a disciplinary hearing for a smuggling account.

Sneed was in segregation for more than a month before his hearing. Meanwhile, the parole board has taken no official action regarding Sneed’s parole – presumably pending the results of the disciplinary hearing before making a decision.

But when the disciplinary hearing took place, he was acquitted of the charge after Frampton raised questions about the chain of custody of Sneed’s urine sample and what he alleged to be fraudulent documents related to it. drug test. Prison officials then announced a new disciplinary charge against Sneed – alleging he was in the wrong dorm on the day he collapsed. But this article was dropped the next day.

Yet in a single-member action, a member of the parole board – Tony Marabella – decided to overturn Sneed’s parole. A new hearing took place days later, in which members of the parole board claimed to have evidence that Sneed had used drugs in March. But they did not provide this evidence to Sneed or his lawyer, and did not allow him to call witnesses or present his own evidence. In a unanimous vote, they withdrew Sneed’s parole.

After the hearing, Frampton called the decision “cruel and senseless”.

The parole board’s decision would lead to months of litigation in state and federal courts, where Sneed argued that the parole board violated his due process and First Amendment rights, in addition to their rights. own policies. Because Sneed’s release date had already passed, his attorneys said he was at the very least entitled to a full revocation hearing where Sneed was allegedly allowed to call witnesses and present evidence. They also argued that the parole board did not follow its own internal policies when it decided to quash Sneed’s parole.

Advance settlement offers

While the litigation between Sneed and the parole board has been highly controversial, a recent filing by Sneed’s attorneys in the case shows that he has repeatedly made offers to undergo drug treatment since the board overturned her parole in May – none of which was acceptable to the parole board.

In late June, Sneed offered to drop all litigation against the board if they agreed that upon completion of a drug treatment program in custody, Sneed would be paroled. Alternatively, he offered to make outpatient treatment in Baton Rouge a condition of his parole.

More than a month later, in August, the parole board declined the offer, saying it would only “ask him to be put on the lineup and we will book a hearing for him once he does.” will be eligible “and that it cannot” guarantee any result “. of any hearing.

As of October, Sneed was apparently still not receiving drug addiction treatment in prison. According to the recent filing, Frampton texted Department of Public Safety and Corrections attorney Jonathan Vining to re-inquire about a settlement agreement.

“Bobby STILL did not receive any drug treatment in DOC custody despite our request (which, remember, was the only reason he apparently needed to be locked up),” Frampton wrote to Vining.

On December 9, after Baton Rouge Judge Ron Johnson, who presided over the Sneed State case, ordered Sneed’s release for the second time, Frampton contacted the parole board again. This time, he said Sneed was prepared to drop all other lawsuits for unlawful imprisonment against the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and the parole board if they agreed not to appeal the order. .

“No matter what happens next in Bobby’s case, he has promising legal claims for damages against both you and [Department of Public Safety and Corrections attorney Jonathan Vining’s] clients for his bogus imprisonment from March 29 to present, ”Frampton wrote in an email. “But, as we’ve said many times, he’s more interested in his freedom than anything else. I think if your clients would agree to abide by the Louisiana Supreme Court and Justice Johnson ruling (and agree not to take further adverse action against it) – which, to be frank, doesn’t seem to give up. a ton – he would be willing to waive those potential claims. But if you insist on filing further requests for emergency briefs or new hearings in the next few hours, there is no reason for him to drop his claims.

But after acknowledging the offer, the parole board went ahead and filed an appeal. Under Monday’s federal settlement, Sneed retains the ability to seek damages.

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