Mike Huckabee made a troubling appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show yesterday, where O’Reilly praised him for his forthcomingness.
Only . . . he wasn’t.
Journalists in Arkansas and Washington state are raising serious questions about Huckabee’s version of events regarding cop-killer Maurice Clemmons’ release from an Arkansas prison, among other things.
The Arkansas Leader says Huckabee misrepresented Clemmons’ actual record on O’Reilly’s show:
Clemmons, who killed the four officers in Tacoma, wrote Huckabee in 2000 that he had discovered Jesus and he prayed that God would move the governor to reduce his 108-year sentence to time served. . .
To tell his side, Huckabee on Monday arranged to go on the Bill O’Reilly show, where his friend questioned him ever so gingerly. He fudged the details, claiming that Clemmons had gotten those 108 years in prison for only two crimes (there were eight).
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has more details of the real circumstances leading up to Clemmons’ 2000 release:
Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley, whose office opposed Clemmons’ parole in 2000 and 2004, said Huckabee created a flaw in the Arkansas justice system by freeing the number of prisoners he did. . . Huckabee . . . noted local prosecutors didn’t object to Clemmons’ commutation. Jegley said his office doesn’t have any record that the governor notified him of the intention to grant clemency.
So did Huckabee lie about the prosecutor’s position on O’Reilly’s show? Here is what he said on O’Reilly:
We didn’t have any information from the prosecutors. We sent notices, which is the practice in Arkansas, to five different people: the attorney general, secretary of state, the prosecutor, the judge, and law enforcement. The only official that we have record of getting notification from is the judge who agreed with the recommendation of the parole board. So that’s what we acted upon, what I acted upon.
Did the dog eat the letter Huckabee was supposed to send to the prosecutor? The prosecutor says outright that he didn’t receive notification, whereas Huckabee is resorting to time-honored low-bar legalisms about ‘the records he did receive’ and ‘the standard practice being notifying the prosecutor.’
In other words, he’s saying he did not not send that letter to that prosecutor.
Huckabee also claimed that nobody else objected to Clemmons’ release. The Arkansas Leader reports that the victims objected. So what are they, non-persons?
Details of Clemmon’s pre-release record, which included aggravated robbery, firearms possession, and burglary, are still emerging. Bear in mind that criminal records often represent only a fraction of the crimes a defendant has been involved in: others get “disappeared” in a variety of ways — permanently shelved when one crime is charged, horse-traded into oblivion through pleas, or sealed and abandoned if the defendant is a juvenile, as Clemmons was. And whenever I see a burglary charge for someone later charged with rape, I wonder if it was an attempted rape, a fishing expedition for victims, or a rape pleaded down to a lesser offense.
For, DNA database hits are uncovering scores of serial rapists whose only prior convictions were for burglary and other lesser offenses.
In any case, he must have been a real monster to garner such a sentence in the first place — though Huckabee saw things differently:
In 1990, the then 18-year-old Clemmons was sentenced as a habitual criminal to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft of property. Just before he was sentenced Clemmons reportedly took a padlock off his holding cell and tried to throw it a court bailiff, but accidentally struck his mother, who had come to bring him street clothes. . . . Clemmons was found guilty of breaking into the home of a state trooper and taking more than $6,000 in valuables, including the trooper’s gun. In May of 1989, Clemmons was arrested for allegedly carrying a weapon on a Little Rock, Ark., high school campus. Clemmons, then 17, reportedly told officers he brought a .25-caliber pistol to school because he had “been chased and beaten by ‘dopers,’ ” and if they got after him again he “had something for them.”
Prosecutors say the record was bad:
[T]he Pulaski County prosecutor’s office twice objected to parole recommendations for Clemmons.”For us to prosecute a 17-year-old, and for him to get a 95-year sentence without a homicide — you’ve got to be a bad little dude to draw that kind of a sentence,” said Mark Fraiser, who prosecuted the earlier cases against Clemmons in Pulaski County.
“He had an obvious propensity for future violence,” Fraiser said today. “To wake up this morning and turn on the news and hear his name, I can’t even imagine the suffering of those families and the suffering of people in those communities.”
Details about the prosecutor’s position on clemency and Clemmon’s criminal record aren’t the only things Huckabee fudged on O’Reilly’s show.
Simultaneously, he insinuated that there were too many clemency appeals to look at them closely:
I looked at every case file, and I had 1,200 of these a year. This is what people need to understand.
but that he nevertheless looked at this one very carefully:
O’REILLY: Now, did you study it? Did you study it? I mean, look, governors have a lot of this stuff.
O’REILLY: Did you study this guy? Did you spend a lot of time on it, or did you just take the advice of your advisers?
HUCKABEE: No, I looked at every case file, and I had 1,200 of these a year. This is what people need to understand. Ninety-two percent of the time they were denied. But in this case, the judge in the case was also recommending and the parole board on a 5-0 vote, because at the age of 16, the sentence he got for the crimes he committed back in 1989 was excessive for anything else that was in Arkansas.
Is there anything he won’t say? That doesn’t even make any sense.
Huckabee might have had 1,200 commutation requests every year, but so do other governors who don’t behave as if releasing violent offenders is a badge of honor. Or a hobby:
Saline County Circuit Judge Robert Herzfeld, who as a prosecutor successfully sued Huckabee over clemency practices, said Huckabee’s decision to give Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards a pardon for a 1975 traffic offense after meeting him at a concert showed how lightly the ex-governor approached the practice.
“That just said volumes about how he considered this serious ultimate power over freedom as a joke,” Herzfeld said.
Having 1,200 commutation requests doesn’t mean a thing — it certainly doesn’t mean you should go beating the bushes to let rapists off easy. If you read one thing about Huckabee, read this detailed and damning expose on his efforts to cover-up his role in the release of rapist and murderer Wayne DuMond:
New sources, including an advisor to Gov. Mike Huckabee, have told the Arkansas Times that Huckabee and a senior member of his staff exerted behind-the-scenes influence to bring about the parole of rapist Wayne Dumond, who Missouri authorities say raped and killed a woman there shortly after his parole [DNA confirmed Dumond’s guilt]. Huckabee has denied a role in Dumond’s release . . . Huckabee has shifted responsibility for Dumond’s release to others, claiming former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker made Dumond eligible for parole and saying the Post Prison Transfer Board made the decision on its own to free Dumond. But the Times’ new reporting shows the extent to which Huckabee and a key aide were involved in the process to win Dumond’s release. It was a process marked by deviation from accepted parole practice and direct personal lobbying by the governor, in an apparently illegal and unrecorded closed-door meeting with the parole board (the informal name by which the Post Prison Transfer Board is known). After Huckabee told the board, in executive session, that he believed Dumond got a “raw deal,” according to a board member who was there, and supported his release, board chairman Leroy Brownlee personally paved the way for Dumond’s release, according to board records and former members. During that time — from December 1996 to January 1997 — Brownlee regularly consulted with Butch Reeves, the governor’s prison liaison, on the status of his efforts, two state officials have told the Times.
Read the rest here.
Meanwhile the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports this appalling exchange. I think it says everything that needs to be said about Huckabee’s real attitude towards crime victims:
A county prosecutor in Arkansas, Robert Herzfeld, wrote Huckabee arguing that his clemency policy was “fatally flawed” — and would later sue to overturn a Huckabee decision to set free a murderer who bludgeoned his victim.
The reply to his letter came from Huckabee’s chief of staff: “The governor read your letter and laughed out loud. He wanted me to respond to you. I wish you success as you cut down on your caffeine consumption.”
Huckabee “laughed out loud” at an urgent plea to keep a convicted murderer behind bars. Now he says he’s “heartbroken” at the four officers’ deaths. What a difference a little negative publicity makes.
And what a shame Bill O’Reilly is covering for Huckabee. O’Reilly is usually one of the only people in the media who speak up for crime victims, as he did last year in this truly appalling case. O’Reilly says he’s going after the judges — presumably the one who helped get Clemmons off and then officiated at his wedding:
“I figure young people make some mistakes,” [Judge Marion Humphrey] said. Also a Presbyterian minister, Humphrey said he believes in giving people a second chance. Humphrey in 2004 also officiated Clemmons’ wedding when he married his fiance Nicole Cheryleen Smith, according to a copy of the marriage certificate [this, after how many additional offenses?]. “It would be the furthest thing from my mind that he would go out and kill four police officers, if in fact he did,” Humphrey said.
It’s this mindset that’s the problem. Huckabee, like far too many politicians, parole board members, judges, and even prosecutors (who are often defense attorneys-in-training) work hard to minimize criminals’ records at every turn, endlessly seeking any golden ring to justify releasing them back onto the streets.
They are abetted, and praised for this by a wide variety of extremely influential people — law professors, criminologists, academic and foundation leaders, religious leaders, and, of course, virtually everyone in the media: the Empathy/Leniency Cabal. Our legal system is suffused with empathy for the worst offenders, and a culture of extreme leniency that gets cops, and other living things, killed with chilling regularity.
This was the worldview Huckabee chose, and to deny that now is simply dishonest.