While Seattle police were hunting for cop killer Maurice Clemmons, who was located and killed by police this morning, Bill O’Reilly interviewed Mike Huckabee last night about his commutation of Clemmons’ prison sentence in Arkansas nine years ago. There was no sign of the confrontational Bill O”Reilly who has blasted judges and officials for being soft on crime.
“A lot of people want an explanation: This was a bad Hombre, and you let him out. Why?” O”Reilly then permitted Huckabee to defend his actions, without any of Bill O’s usual interruptions. Huckabee replied that, “The post-prison transfer board ….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….“
In answer to O’Reilly’s question as to whether he scrutinized Clemmons’ file, Huckabee claimed, “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.” Huckabee claimed that notices of Clemmons’ pending release were sent to the prosecutor, but that he “had no information from prosecutors.” Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley disputes this, claiming his office has no record of notification from the governor about Clemmons pending commutation. Jegley said he opposed Clemmons’ 2000 and 2004 paroles, calling Huckabee’s statements “red herrings.” “My word to Mr. Huckabee is man up and own what you did.”
It must be noted, however, that prosecutors’ failure to serve Clemmons with arrest warrants for the robbery he committed subsequent to his 2000 parole until three years after his arrest resulted in those charges being dropped because of the delay, and parole was again granted Clemmons in 2004.
While there may be more than enough blame to go around in this case, then-Governor Huckabee granted more than twice the number of commutations and pardons than the three governors who preceded him combined. Jegley claims Huckabee “…created a flaw in the Arkansas justice system by freeing the number of prisoners he did. (Clemmons) should have stayed locked up like the jury wanted him and we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I just have been figuratively holding my breath and hoping something like this wouldn’t happen. I just think that a lot of the people that were subjects of clemency during that period of time were some very dangerous people who didn’t need to be let out.”
Arkansas prosecutors say Huckabee’s Southern Baptist beliefs led to misplaced compassion. They also claim he tended to release or reduce the sentences of prisoners with whom he had direct contact, or whose release was lobbied for by people closed to him. Maruice Clemmons wrote Huckabee a letter asking for compassion, saying that he had changed his life since “the angel of death has visited and taken away my dear sweet mother.”
Huckabee was successfully sued by a prosecutor over his clemency practices. Robert Herzfeld, now a Saline County Circuit Judge, cited Huckabee’s pardon of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards for a 1975 traffic offense after he met Richards at a concert. Herzfeld points to that incident as an example of how lightly Huckabee treated the practice of pardons. “That just said volumes about how he considered this serious ultimate power over freedom as a joke.“
O’Reilly tried to put the blame solely on Washington State, stating, “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 eight felony charges. Eight felonies!”
Authorities in both Arkansas and Washington State were pilloried when it was revealed that despite Clemmons’ teenage crime spree in Arkansas and his recent arrests in Washington, he was repeatedly put back on the streets. In an interview with Diane Sawyer on Monday morning, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer strongly defended the Seattle area police, stating that they had arrested him numerous times in the past six months, but he was repeatedly released on bond. He stated that Clemmons should have been in jail in Arkansas, and insinuated that Arkansas’ criminal justice had dropped the ball by releasing him, saying “He shouldn’t even have been here.”
Lakewood police union president Brian Wurtz said, “I can’t believe he was out on the street. If what (we hear) is true, I think this country needs to get together and figure out why these people are out. Our elected officials need to find out why these people are out. We have five percent of the people out here committing 90 percent of the crimes – not just against us but against all of you. We’ve got to keep these people accountable and got to keep these people locked up. If you want to rehabilitate them, you can rehabilitate them. But rehabilitate them in prison where they’re supposed to be. This guy should have never been on the street.”
So who is to blame here, beside the animal whose death has saved the state of Washington the cost of a trial and incarceration? Is it Judge John McCarthy who set Clemmons’ bail on the recent charge that he raped a 12-year-old relative? Is it Judge Thomas Finagle who signed off on that bail and let him walk? Is the fault of Arkansas prosecutors for dropping the ball and allowing Clemmons to walk on a technicality? Is it Huckabee’s fault for approving the commutation despite prosecutors protests? If a jury found that, even as a teenager, Clemmons’ crimes were so violent they sentenced him to 60 years, it seems to me that Huckabee cannot walk away from his part in this. If Clemmons had been in jail until his first opportunity for parole had come up, Sgt. Mark Renninger and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards would still be alive today because Clemmons would not have been in that Parkland, Washington, coffee house on Sunday morning.
After absolving Huckabee of any blame, O’Reilly actually thanked Huckabee for “being a stand-up guy.” And so, Bill O, so much for fair and balanced reporting. Your hypocrisy has been fully outed on this issue. There’s no one in his or her right mind who doesn’t hold Huckabee at least partly responsible for Clemmons’ release — except you, and his buddies at Fox News, that is. Gee, I can’t WAIT for Olbermann tonight!
Sources: FoxNews; King5TV; Huffington Post; King5.com; Seattle Times