After Being Illegally Imprisoned for Almost a Year, Bobby Sneed Is Finally Free

Bobby Sneed left the West Feliciana Parish Detention Center last week, his first glimpse of some freedom since nearly fifty years ago. For his part in the 1974 robbery, he was sentenced to three years. However, the last nine months were spent in illegal jail, even though the Louisiana state granted him parole. He was later refused release despite numerous court orders.

This release was to have occurred on March 29, last year. After a second court order by a judge, which railed against the government’s insistence on violating Sneeds rights, it was released this January 7. It is an account of the extent government agents go to maintain control over someone who they freely admit is not a danger to society.

Sneed states that when he got parole for the first, he felt “somewhat excited.” It had been a long wait.”

He would have to wait longer. Sneed, now 75, fell in the Louisiana State Penitentiary dormitory in March 2021. After a short hearing lasting 17 minutes, Sneed had already received his release date. The unanimous decision of the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Parole was made. After Sneed had been hospitalized for COVID-19, and pneumonia, the release date was abruptly revoked. Justification for the decision: Sneed was also allegedly positive for methamphetamines and amphetamines. Sneed was held in isolation after his release was ordered to be delayed.

But the drug charges against Sneed quickly fell apart. The prison staff acknowledged that they hadn’t completed the full chain of custody for Sneed’s urine samples, and couldn’t verify that it was him who tested positive. His case was dismissed by the disciplinary panel.

Even so, Sneed’s parole revocation became official in May—during a hearing that violated state law, according to Judge Ronald Johnson of the 19th Judicial District Court. Sneed was barred by the Committee on Parole and Thomas Frampton (his attorney) from inspecting any purported evidence against Sneed or calling witnesses.

Further complicating matters was the fact the state relied upon the notes of the doctor who examined Sneed. They claimed that Sneed had admitted to using drugs. Frampton claims that the doctor who treated Sneed said she did not know why it was in her description. Sneed, however, was unconscious for most of his time and could not communicate well. Frampton was not provided with this evidence by the state until the hearing. He could not question the integrity of the testimony or call the doctor to testify on record.

The December 2021 court decision that led to Sneed’s release almost didn’t. “Sneed was deprived…of due process of law,” wrote Judge Johnson in a stern opinion that, for the second time, ordered Sneed freed. Sneed was released in November, after his initial ruling requesting that he be freed. Sneed, who was just minutes from escaping Angola in his pick-up car, was arrested by the Committee on Parole on a separate contraband offense that it hadn’t mentioned nor pursued until now.

The Committee decided to follow through a month later. It stipulated that Sneed must enroll in a 28 day drug treatment program, which he completed earlier this month. It’s possible they felt pressured by the court. However, it remains to be unclear why the Committee finally gave in. Francis Abbott (executive director of the Committee on Parole) told me last week via email that “Thanks, but we will not comment at this time.”

Sneed, who was involved in an armed robbery that saw one of his associates murder a burglar he was trying, was sentenced to life in prison. Sneed, who was only blocks from the murder, was convicted as principal in second-degree murder. He was, however, the last of six people involved in this crime to be incarcerated.

He was incredibly sorry that he had to be locked up for the first time. “Of all the time I had been incarcerated, I had never given up… I continued to do what I thought was right,” he says. I want to always help others. During his long stint at Angola, Sneed worked as a legal substitute—essentially a stand-in jailhouse attorney—helping other incarcerated people work through the thicket of procedural legalese in their cases.

He doesn’t even think about jail anymore. Sneed states, “I have many grandkids I do not know and I want all this to be over.” “The remainder of my time on the earth, I plan to spend it with family.” L’Jarius Sneed from the Kansas City Chiefs, one of his great-grandsons, is also a Kansas City Chiefs player. Sneed said that Sneed “wants to spend as much time as possible with his papaw.”

Sneed may decide to bring a civil lawsuit against the government for violating his constitutional rights. Frampton says, “It is profoundly troubling.” “The sheer number of state actors…working to prolong Bobby’s unconstitutional detention is disturbing.”

Though many government agents worked to secure Sneed’s post-parole imprisonment—from Attorney General Jeff Landry to Angola Warden Tim Hooper—the primary player was arguably Abbott. Sneed was not able to prove or claim that Director Abbott had any statutory authority. The government filed a lawsuit. Now, the government has released emails from Abbott that show he made the order and then informed his colleagues.

Sneed asked me his thoughts on Abbott and the company. “I would just…pray for them,” he responds. They are always in my thoughts and prayers.