Bobby Sneed pictured prior to and during his incarceration at Louisiana State Penitentiary. (Photos provided by family)

Officials at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola have dropped all disciplinary charges against prisoner Bobby Sneed, a Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections confirmed Thursday. Sneed was granted parole in March after decades in prison, but he faced a potential revocation, and at least another year in prison for a disciplinary infraction after an alleged drug overdose. 

Officials initially gave Sneed a contraband charge. That was dropped at a disciplinary hearing earlier this week. But they added a new charge — for allegedly being in the wrong dorm when he collapsed from the alleged overdose. On Thursday, the prison Disciplinary Board dropped that charge as well.

Though Sneed has been cleared of the disciplinary violations, however, he may still not be released.

On Friday, Francis Abbott, executive director of the Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole, told The Lens that the board is rescinding Sneed’s parole and scheduling a new parole hearing on Monday. 

“Parole is not guaranteed to anyone,” Abbott said. “There is no constitutional right to parole release for any offender. You know, parole is an administrative device that is at the discretion of the Committee on Parole. And with such we have made the decision to rescind that parole.”

In an interview on Friday, Sneed’s lawyer Thomas Frampton called the possibility of forcing Sneed to go in front of the parole board again “horrifying.” Frampton told The Lens he believes that a parole revocation based on dropped disciplinary charges would be against the law. 

“It’s cruel, illegal, and a massive waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “But that’s the Louisiana parole board at work.”  

Sneed was convicted in 1975 for being “principal to murder” after he served as a lookout for a robbery that left an elderly man dead, and was sentenced to life in prison. He is the only one of the six men involved in the robbery who is still incarcerated. 

Meanwhile, his family — including 4 children and several grandchildren — continue to await the resolution of the saga, and are anticipating his return home. 

“I truly have been praying,” one of his siblings, who asked not to be identified, told The Lens on Wednesday. “I believe that prayer changes things.”

Decision now rests with parole board

In Sneed’s March parole hearing, no opposition from law enforcement or the family of the victim’s was presented, nor was their opposition from any other party. Sneed was unanimously granted parole in less than 20 minutes. 

But days before his scheduled release on March 29, Sneed collapsed in the prison and had to be hospitalized. The prison administered a drug test and alleged that Sneed was positive for amphetamines and methamphetamines.  Instead of being released, Sneed was held for over a month awaiting adjudication on disciplinary charges for having contraband. 

Frampton urged the prison to drop those charges, arguing that even if Sneed had drugs in his system, he was better off being reunited with his family and getting treatment outside of the prison. Even prior to  He said that if Sneed’s parole was revoked he would likely die in prison.

But the charges moved forward.  After a hearing on Wednesday, May 5, Frampton said that the Disciplinary Board found Sneed not guilty of his initial charge of contraband, but decided at the same time to institute a new charge that alleged he was not in the proper dorm when he collapsed. Sneed had never been informed of the new charge prior to the hearing, Frampton said. 

That evening, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety Corrections confirmed to The Lens that “Disciplinary Board actions” were still pending, but did not address the results of the initial hearing or the new charge.

According to Frampton, another hearing was scheduled to take place on Thursday, May 6, to adjudicate the new charge. But instead, the Disciplinary Board decided to dismiss it without a hearing. 

“The Louisiana State Penitentiary Disciplinary Board dismissed both charges against Bobby Sneed this week,” said DOC spokesperson Ken Pastorick in an email to The Lens. But he added that “the parole of Sneed is a decision for the Parole Board, an autonomous board independent of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.”

Frampton assumed that the dismissal of disciplinary charges would mean the prison would be moving forward with Sneed’s release — not that the board would move forward with revocation of his parole. 

“Bobby was already adjudicated innocent in a sham hearing that afforded him as much due process as we associate with a totalitarian government,” Frampton said on Thursday. “It’s gross and cruel that they’re still delaying his release, and that delay now rests squarely with the parole board.”

But on Friday, Abbott said that despite the prison Disciplinary Board’s ruling that Sneed was not guilty of the disciplinary report, he still thought that Sneed had engaged in misconduct.

“You know, this offender engaged in misconduct prior to his release,” Abbott said. “They just did not find him guilty of a disciplinary report.”

When pressed on how the parole board could determine that Sneed had engaged in misconduct after the Disciplinary Board had acquitted him, Abbott said that they had independently reviewed documentation submitted to them. 

“The documentation that’s been submitted to us, you know, we reviewed it and we’ve made the decision to rescind his parole and have a new hearing on Monday,” Abbott said.

He said that he would not be releasing any of the documentation or information regarding the board’s decision making process to revoke Sneed’s parole “at this time.”

Nick Chrastil

Nicholas Chrastil covers criminal justice for The Lens. As a freelancer, his work has appeared in Slate, Undark, Mother Jones, and the Atavist, among other outlets. Chrastil has a master's degree in mass...