When it comes to Maurice Clemmons and the four dead Lakewood police officers, Mike Huckabee is failing the accountability test
It was almost exactly two years ago when, in the crucial weeks in advance of the Iowa Caucus, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suffered a major political setback when he was forced to justify his decision to advocate for the freedom of Wayne Dumond, a rapist set free by Huckabee only to rape again years later.
When news came out on Sunday that the ruthless murderer of four police officers in a Seattle area coffeehouse was indeed a former beneficiary of Huckabee’s penchant for doling out commutations and pardons with truly reckless abandon, I originally was very confused, as I mistook Maurice Clemmons with Dumond, who died back in 2005.
Clemmons, as it turns out, met his end when he encountered a single patrol officer last night and refused to show his hands. Good riddance.
Nevertheless, when one repeat-offending former inmate let go by one particular governor is being mistaken for another repeat-offending former inmate let go by that same governor, that particular governor has an obvious problem.
And Mike Huckabee sure didn’t do himself any favors with the statement he put out after Clemmons name began to be associated with the brutal cop-killing. Placing blame on failed criminal justice systems in Washington and Arkansas may have been appropriate, but he simply cannot escape the reality that but for his leniency, Clemmons would not have been free to kill those four police officers, and leave nine children without the chance to ever hug their fathers and mothers again.
Furthermore, his kid-glove treatment by the normally combative Bill O’Reilly yesterday evening was reprehensible. Huckabee continued to shift blame as much as possible away from himself, talking about the parole board and the lenient judge in Washington state which allowed Clemmons to be freed on bail a week ago, and O’Reilly allowed him to get away with it. He should be ashamed with himself.
O’REILLY: Thanks for being a stand-up guy, Governor. A lot of people want an explanation. This is a bad hombre, and you let him out. Why?
HUCKABEE: Well, Bill, first of all — the tragedy of this — if I could have known 9 years ago this guy was capable of something of this magnitude, obviously I would have never granted the commutation.
It’s sickening. The two people I value most in this country are soldiers and police officers, because they’re the only things standing between our freedom and total anarchy. And in the case of this particular individual — he was sentenced to 108 years for two crimes when he was 16. The post-prison transfer board — I’ll be very brief about this, but to understand — they recommended to me as governor for his commutation, which didn’t release him. It simply cut his sentence to 47 years. That would give him parole eligibility.
That was the commutation. I’m responsible for that. And it’s not something I’m happy about, at this particular moment.
O’REILLY: Now did you study it…
O’REILLY: I mean, look. Governors have a lot of this stuff. 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 about 1,200 of these a year. This is what people need to understand. 92% 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….
O’REILLY: [interrupting] Okay he was a bad guy in prison, and the prosecutors told you. So they say “Hey, this is a hard-core guy. This isn’t some kid who went wrong”.
HUCKABEE: 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, the Secretary of State, the prosecutor, the judge, and law enforcement. The only official we have record of getting notification of from was the judge, who agreed with the recommendation of the parole board.
So that’s what we acted upon. What I acted upon — I’m responsible for that, and you know, my heart is broken for four families tonight…
O’REILLY: [interrupting] Well, it’s not your fault, Governor. I mean, look, you’ve got 1,200 of these cases a year. You gotta look at them. I’m not saying it’s your fault. I don’t think anyone watching thinks it’s your fault.
But the judges in Washington state, come on. I mean, this guy moves from your state — Arkansas — to Washington state and then he racks up 8 felony charges. Eight felonies!
“I’m responsible,” Huckabee might have said, but what I was looking for from him, from someone truly looking to be accountable, was a “but for” statement. But for Mike Huckabee’s commutation of Maurice Clemmons’ sentence, Maurice Clemmons would not have been free to murder four police officers. Sure, lenient judges in Washington State were also responsible for this animal’s freedom — however, but for Mike Huckabee’s leniency in reducing Maurice Clemmons’ 95-year sentence, the bleeding heart judge in the American northwest would have never had the opportunity to free the man who one week later left nine children without a parent.
Is it fair? Probably not. But Mike Huckabee is a self-proclaimed conservative, and conservatives need to hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to matters of morality and accountability. The right thing to do, in terms of both personal and public relations matters, would be to take complete and total responsibility–that “but for” statement–and allow O’Reilly and others to pull him back from the ledge.
Yes, there were failures in the criminal justice systems in Arkansas and Washington State, I would have liked him to have said, and yes, a lenient judge should never have allowed Clemmons to walk free on bail, but Clemmons should never have been on the street in the first place, and but for my terrible decision-making, he would not have been and those four police officers could have eaten dinner with their families that night.
Of course, Clemmons is the one solely, directly responsible for the murders of those four Lakewood police officers, but complicity also lies in both Huckabee’s failure as well as the failure of the judge which allowed for him to be released after posting only $15,000 for the rape of a 12-year-old girl and assault on a police officer. Of course, what we’re seeing is the real life consequence of our current crop of bleeding heart judges and politicians. This man had no business being free. None whatsoever.
Maurice Clemmons wasn’t an angst-filled teenager busted with a couple of joints in his Buick’s ashtray. This is a violent criminal, a ticking time bomb, and yet he was given a second, third, fourth and fifth chance two times too many. I don’t know enough about the judge who allowed Clemmons to walk last week, but I do know Mike Huckabee’s history of freeing and commuting sentences of violent criminals.
Michelle Malkin, in a blog post just riddled with eye-opening information about Mike Huckabee and violent criminals (in other words, go and read it), pointed out a 2004 story from the Arkansas Leader:
Jegley cites numerous examples of Huckabee’s freeing felons who go on committing more crimes and wind up back in prison.
Maurice Clemmons received a 35-year sentence in the early 1990s for armed robbery and theft. His sentence was commuted in May 2000, and he was let out three months later.
The following March, Clemmons committed two armed robberies and other crimes and was sentenced to 10 years. You’d think they’d keep him locked up after that, but no: He was paroled last March and is now wanted for aggravated robbery.
If Huckabee decides to set these criminals free, Jegley says, at least “he ought to give an accounting. I can’t imagine why in the world they’d want them released from jail. There’s a good reason we’re afraid of them. The sad truth is that a significant number of people re-offend.”
The victims’ families, Jegley says, “deserve an explanation. I look into people’s eyes who’ve suffered the unspeakable. I believe they deserve justice.
Until now, Huckabee has refused to comment on his controversial policy of making violent prisoners eligible for parole– they include murderers, armed robbers and rapists, who often return to a life of crime after they’re freed – but in a statement to The Leader this week, he lashed out at prosecutors for not doing more to keep prisoners behind bars – to which Pulaski County Prosecuting Attor-ney
Larry Jegley had this response: “That’s a load of baloney.”
“I’m offended as a prosecutor and as a citizen. He can blame the prosecutors, but ultimately he’s the man responsible,” Jegley says. “He’s the only one who can sign on the dotted line.
Malkin–who, keep in mind, was no Huckabee fan to begin with–also highlighted an entry from a 1998 court document showing Clemmons’ tendency toward violence:
Clemmons’s defense counsel, Llewellyn J. Marczuk, testifying at the postconviction hearing, related that, at the earlier trial, a security guard had reported to Judge Lofton that Clemmons had taken a hinge from one of the courtroom doors, hid it in his sock, and intended to use it as a weapon. The hinge was found and taken from him before he harmed anyone. In another incident, Clemmons extracted a lock from a holding cell, and he later threw the lock which hit his mother. During this second episode, Clemmons purportedly threatened Judge Lofton. In a third incident, Clemmons reportedly reached for a guard’s pistol during his transportation to the courtroom.
Lost in all of this, unfortunately, are the victims of Clemmons’ weekend ambush. But I’m so disgusted with the mentality which allowed for Clemmons to commit the murder that I cannot yet dispatch with the anger enough to mourn the loss of four brave officers. And, honestly, I’d be less disgusted if Huckabee actually owned up to his malfeasance.
Sure, he cites recommendations made by an Arkansas judge in his interview last night on The O’Reilly Factor. Sure, he mentions the approval by the parole board. But the buck stops with the governor, and he was won over by Clemmons’ disingenuous petition for clemency in the face of protests from prosecutors. My goodness, this was a man whose criminal behavior as a teenager net him a 95-year prison sentence; he’s never known anything but violence, and yet the man who first was responsible for his freedom cannot even own up to it.
I’ve liked Mike Huckabee, but I lost a lot of respect for him in the past 24 hours. This was more than a Willie Horton moment. This was a slap in the face of accountability, something that any GOP hopeful should display in spades.
Once upon a time, Huckabee himself asked that the consequences of his decision in the case of Wayne Dumond not be politicized. I’m sure he’d like to ask the same thing here. My vote? No dice.
In the meantime, please pray for those nine children who lost a parent, that husband who lost a wife and those wives who lost their husbands. They deserved better than what happened this weekend. And they deserve more than the half-hearted, blame-shifting explanation being offered.