Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

TOP STORY >> Hey, Mike, who signed Clemmons’ clemency?

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor-in-chief

Mike Huckabee’s political aspirations — and perhaps his radio and TV and publishing career — came crashing down Sunday evening, when law-enforcement officials near Tacoma, Wash., realized that the man who killed four police officers earlier that day was a thug Gov. Huckabee had released from prison in 2000.

This was the same Maurice Clemmons we wrote about back in 2004 after we interviewed prosecutors who were furious with Huckabee’s over-the-top clemencies.

Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley predicted Clemmons would keep committing more crimes, but Huckabee believed Clemmons had undergone a real religious conversion and dismissed Jegley as a crank who wasn’t even a good prosecutor.

“I’ve been dreading this moment,” Jegley told us Sunday night, when it became evident that Clemmons had killed the police officers.

Two days later, an alert policeman in Seattle fatally shot Clemmons near a stolen car as he was about to fire the gun he’d stolen from one of the dead police officers.

The Arkansas thug was born in Marianna — Curtis Vance, Anne Pressly's killer, is also from there — but Clemmons was raised in Seattle before he made his way back to Little Rock, where he committed a series of violent crimes, not just a couple, as Huckabee keeps saying.

Clemmons wound up in Seattle because of his Washington roots but, his religious conversion long forgotten, kept on breaking the law, including sexually assaulting a young relative.

Huckabee now says prosecutors should have stopped him from commuting Clemmons’ 108-year sentence to time served. But he seldom notified prosecutors about his intention to grant clemency to violent criminals.

The few times he notified prosecutors and they objected, “he paid no attention,” Jegley told us. ”He went ahead and did it.”

There’s only one signature on Clemmons’ clemency papers: Huckabee’s.

If he hadn’t commuted Clemmons’ sentence, the police officers would still be alive and the man who gunned them down would still be in an Arkansas prison because he wouldn’t have been eligible for parole until 2021.

No one expected Clemmons would be captured alive, except maybe Circuit Judge Marion Humphrey of Little Rock, who had pleaded with Clemmons to turn himself in.

Humphrey is also a minister, like Huckabee, and had pushed for clemency for Clemmons. Several other ministers had successfully intervened on behalf of criminals who had supposedly found religion and turned their lives around.

Huckabee may not have realized it, as we wrote a while back, but prisoners knew how to get on the governor’s good side. It was Huckabee’s religion test. It was a sure ticket to freedom: Tell him you’ve found religion.

He was Mr. Softie, a soft touch for anyone who professed to have found Jesus — or given him a generous campaign contribution.

This is the second time a parolee killed people outside Arkansas after Huckabee let them out of prison.

Arkansas prosecutors had warned Huckabee repeatedly that he’d wind up with blood on his hands if he continued his generous commutations. He’s responsible not only for the four deaths in Washington, but for two murders in Missouri committed by another Arkansas ex-con.

He lied about his support for Wayne Dumond, who was paroled at Huckabee’s prompting, although he denies it, despite all the evidence that proves he connived to get the rapist released.

As we’ve said before, Huckabee thought Dumond was railroaded by the Clinton “machine” and lobbied publicly and behind the scenes on Dumond’s behalf.

At a highly unusual meeting with the parole board — no other governor had made an appearance there in recent memory — Huck said Dumond had gotten a raw deal and pushed for his earliest release, saying Dumond had been in prison too long.

Parole board member Charles Chastain disagreed, telling the governor, “That’s what happens when you rape a cheerleader in a small town.”

Dumond was paroled to Missouri, where he killed two women, although he was tried and convicted for just one murder before he died in prison.

Did Huckabee apologize? Not really. But he suddenly stopped issuing clemencies after we publicized the worst of his commutations, including his intention to release a murderer named Glenn Martin Green, who had kidnapped an 18-year-old woman from Little Rock Air Force Base and raped, tortured and killed her in ways you wouldn’t even imagine.

Green beat her with Chinese martial-arts sticks, raped her as she barely clung to life, ran over her with his car, then dumped her in the bayou just over the Lonoke County line.

Yet Huckabee felt sympathetic toward Green because a minister spoke well of him. But the publicity over the proposed clemency ended Huckabee’s long streak of mindless commutations and pardons.

The Legislature forced his hand and demanded that he explain why he was freeing hundreds of inmates. But he never gave a reason, apart from his conviction that they’d been reformed.

He soon left office and ran for president, winning a lot of votes and becoming a successful TV and radio talker and author.

Has he once asked himself, during his climb to fame and fortune: “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”