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District Attorney: Angola warden asked for killer's sentence to be reduced; warden denies claim

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ST. FRANCISVILLE- West Feliciana Parish District Attorney Sam D'Aquilla told WBRZ Monday a warden at Angola asked to have a convicted killer's sentence reduced, making him eligible for parole.

D'Aquilla referred all questions to Angola, but did not say the warden's name on the phone. The Department of Corrections immediately fired back with the following statement:

"Warden Darrell Vannoy did not request Hampton's release. The change in Clifford Hampton's 1961 conviction is a result of a motion filed by his attorneys. The Department of Public Safety and Corrections had no bearing on this change. The Department is not responsible for convicting or sentencing offenders, only enforcing the sentence handed down by the court. Clearly the judge, the district attorney, and the defense attorneys agreed the evidence in this crime aligned with the elements of manslaughter, and thus resentenced Hampton under this crime to 21 years. Like the District Attorney, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections and Louisiana State Penitentiary Warden Darrell Vannoy did not oppose the motion for the change," a spokesman said.

That revelation came to light Monday when the WBRZ Investigative Unit went looking for answers as to how a convicted killer with two life sentences managed to get a parole hearing where board members voted to set him free.

Clifford Hampton killed Bertha Ann Gibson after she refused to have sex with him when he was 17 years old. Changes to state law made him eligible for parole since the crime occurred when he was a juvenile. When Hampton was locked up at Angola, he killed again. An inmate named Camey Time was killed after Hampton said Time was telling lies about him.

"They are supplanting their judgment to the judgment of the courts and the entire judicial process," District Attorney Ricky Babin said last week.

Gibson was killed in St. James Parish, an area that Babin represents. Two years ago, Babin's office filed a motion to keep Hampton locked up. That did not work.

In August of 2018, an attorney out of New Orleans filed a motion to have Hampton's sentence vacated. It was unopposed and granted by Judge William Carmichael. D'Aquilla was present during that court hearing but referred all questions to Angola about it.

D'Aquilla acknowledged on the phone that vacating a sentence is very rare, and so did two other district attorneys who said that typically only happens if there was something gravely wrong with the prosecution.

Currently, the Department of Corrections is reviewing where Hampton will live before he is released.

"Is reducing the prison population the only driver of this thing?" Babin asked. "If that's the case, then just say it and be done with it."

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