Faith, Friends and Family: The Mike Huckabee Pardon Plan
As it turns out, Mike Huckabee yesterday chose the right day to declare that "it's less likely than more likely" that he'll run for President in 2012. The horrific news that Maurice Clemmons, the repeat felon granted clemency by then Governor Huckabee in 2000, was suspected of executing four Washington state police officers won't merely cast a pall over his White House hopes. For the former Baptist minister turned GOP frontrunner, Sunday's slaughter resurrects Huckabee's disturbing history of intervening to protect political allies, fellow members of the faith and even his own son from facing justice.
To be sure, the 17 year old Maurice Clemmons sentenced to 60 years for a string of burglaries was not Wayne Dumond.
As Murray Waas documented at the Huffington Post two year ago, Mike Huckabee might claim to be a man of God, but he acted a pure partisan operator in the freeing of Dumond back in Arkansas.
The stunning scandal surrounding the convicted rapist Dumond is not limited to Huckabee's direct personal involvement in securing his parole. Nor is Huckabee's disgrace merely compounded by his later denials that he had no way of knowing the dangers posed by Dumond, who went on to rape and murder again after his release. (Waas produced extenstive documentation, including letters to Huckabee from Dumond's past victims.) Huckabee's abominable role is all the more shocking because it was done at the behest of conservative zealots like Steve Dunleavy and Guy Reel furious because Wayne Dumond's victim was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton and also happened to be the daughter of a prominent Arkansas Democrat.
Baselessly calling the coverage by ABC and the Huffington Post "complete exploitation" and full of "factual errors," Huckabee foreshadowed his pathetic statement Sunday regarding Clemmons' bloodbath and tried to deny his role in the Dumond affair. Instead, Minister Huckabee attacked the messenger:
"What a sad thing that in an election year, we're going to take the grief of these people...and make this a political issue, and try to point fingers and blame."
Of course, for Governor Huckabee, clemency was frequently a political issue.
As MSNBC reported, in 2004 Huckabee took the unusual step of offering clemency to Eugene Fields, a four-time DWI offender. Apparently, $10,000 in contributions to the Republican Party of Arkansas and additional gifts to the Salvation Army and a Baptist church charity were sufficient to get Fields a get-out-of-jail free card from Governor Huckabee:
In August 2001, Fields, of Van Buren, Ark., was convicted of his fourth DWI charge, a felony in the state of Arkansas, was sentenced to six years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Fields reported to prison in August of 2003.
But prison records obtained by NBC News show that six weeks into that six-year sentence, Fields' application for clemency, a commutation of his sentence the governor could issue to grant Fields an early release from prison, was unanimously supported by the parole board. Within months, Huckabee issued his intent to grant executive clemency to Fields, who was released from prison soon thereafter.
As the AP reported in December 2007, Governor Huckabee didn't merely step in to help past and future felons for political purposes. Huckabee used his pardon power at an unprecedented rate (1,033 times over 10 and a half years, compared to 507 times over the 17 plus years of Bill Clinton, Frank White and Jim Guy Tucker). And as case after case shows, Huckabee was quick to offer clemency when his fellow ministers requested it.
The AP documented numerous cases of Huckabee's faith, friends and family plan for gubernatorial pardons and Christian clemency:
Donald W. Clark, convicted of theft. Huckabee's pastor recommended leniency for Clark, whose stepmother worked on Huckabee's gubernatorial staff.
Robert A. Arnold Jr., who was convicted of killing his father-in-law. Arnold's father, a former mayor of Hope, Huckabee's hometown, said he was a casual friend of the governor.
A pastor who promoted Huckabee among blacks urged the governor to grant clemency to John Henry Claiborne, who was sentenced to 100 years for a 1994 armed robbery, according to a 2004 report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Huckabee made Claiborne eligible for parole after receiving a letter from the Rev. Charles Williams, who told the newspaper he had helped win "many, many" clemencies from Huckabee.
Whitewater figure David Hale, a government witness in the trial that forced Gov. Jim Guy Tucker's resignation and let Huckabee ascend to the office, was pardoned after being sentenced to 21 days in a state insurance case. Huckabee complained it would cost too much to hold him. The price tag: $1,200.
As prosecutor Robert Herzfeld said in 2004, "It seems to be true at least anecdotally that if a minister is involved, (Huckabee) seems likely to grant clemency."
When it comes to tipping the scales of justice, Mike Huckabee clearly believes that charity begins at home.
In 1998, the Governor's then 17 year old son David Huckabee was dismissed from his job as a Boy Scout counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Arkansas for hanging a stray dog. Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee then personally intervened to protect his son from legal jeopardy:
It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney - bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group - to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws. The state police never granted the request, and no charges were ever filed. But John Bailey, then the director of Arkansas's state police, tells NEWSWEEK that Governor Huckabee's chief of staff and personal lawyer both leaned on him to write a letter officially denying the local prosecutor's request. Bailey, a career officer who had been appointed chief by Huckabee's Democratic predecessor, said he viewed the lawyer's intervention as improper and terminated the conversation. Seven months later, he was called into Huckabee's office and fired.
Ultimately, the criminality of David Huckabee never became an albatross around his father's neck. In April 2007, David was arrested at Little Rock Airport for concealing a loaded Glock pistol in his carry-on luggage. As the AP reported, a nonchalant Huckabee the Younger received a one year suspended sentence and 10 days of community service:
"I removed the bag and asked Mr. Huckabee if he knew what he had in the bag," Little Rock police officer Arthur Nugent wrote in a report after being summoned to a security checkpoint. "He replied he did now."
Throughout his career, Mike Huckabee has repeatedly attributed his political successes to divine intervention. As the carnage in Washington should remind us all, Governor Huckabee never hesitated to intervene in the criminal justice system for friends, family and the faithful.
UPDATE 1: For the details and history on 40 other moments in the extremism of Mike Huckabee, see:
UPDATE 2: As Politico reports, even the right-wing blogosphere is raking Huckabee over the coals for his role in Clemmons' clemency. Meanwhile, the Seattle Times is reporting that Clemmons was given clemency and paroled in Arkansas after claiming he came from "a very good Christian family" and had changed while behind bars.