Free for 16 days: Man who proclaims innocence back in prison

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — An Indiana man proclaiming his innocence for more than 20 years is back in prison tonight in Plainfield.

Vernon Bateman was convicted of rape in 1998 and paroled for the second time just a few weeks ago.

At the time he was paroled, the Indiana Parole Board told him he would be on a “short leash” and now he is accused of violating parole yet again.

Angela Ganote (left) and Vernon Bateman (right)

The million dollar question is, what did he do to lost his freedom after only being out of prison for 16 days?  

“I was just a person who got into an accident. If anyone said call 911 I would have called it. If I am going back to prison for calling 911 what do I do?”

Bateman was riding in a car that got hit from behind and that was the final moment before his parole officer took him back into custody. She was following behind the car that crashed into the car Vernon was riding in.

The woman driving the car that Vernon was riding in – was a guard who worked in the prison where Bateman served time. The two claim they became friends at the prison and she was taking Bateman to look at a new apartment, but the guard is not allowed to have contact with the formerly incarcerated.

Bateman says after being in prison for so many years – that’s really all he knows.

Vernon Bateman

“Most people I know even friends and everything it’s people that has been in prison. I’ve been in prison since 1998. I guess in her job title she isn’t supposed to be around prisoners, but I wasn’t in prison. I am on parole.”

I have followed Vernon’s story closely for three years and I asked him why he or the guard would have allowed him to be put in this position.  

With one big tear strolling down his face he told me, “I am sorry – I know you care about me.”

This is latest in a frustrating painful battle that I’ve followed for more than three years.

The Innocence Project took interest in Vernon’s case because the rape kit in his original case was never tested.

His lawyers believe he is innocent of the sexual assault he was convicted of and the kit could prove he it.

Vernon Bateman

Vernon maintains, as he has since he was 18, he didn’t commit the rape all those years ago, he will continue to fight to prove he didn’t and is adamant he shouldn’t be in prison at all. 

“I promise I won’t give up. I promise there is nothing that is going to break me. The average person would have been broken. I am not breaking I am going to continue fighting.”

Vernon will have another hearing before the parole board in the coming weeks to determine his future.

As for the prison guard – we are waiting to hear if she will be disciplined for having contact with a former inmate or if she is even still working at the prison.      

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