As Mike Huckabee has risen from the very bottom of the ranks of presidential contenders just months ago to the top of the latest national and early state polls, both the media and his opponents have stepped up attacks in a desperate attempt to curb his momentum.
The most recent attack, courtesy of the left-wing blog The Huffington Post, is based on the tragic case of Wayne Dumond -- a convicted rapist released by the Arkansas Parole Board, only to rape and kill again. Governor Huckabee supported his release at the time, but as Governor played no role in his parole.
However, six years later, during an election year, several Democrat members of the parole board -- who Huckabee had chosen not to reappoint to their $75,000 jobs -- accused him of pressuring them to release Dumond in a meeting with the board.
The purpose of this post is to make the truth about the Dumond case available, much of which has been lost in the viciousness and politicizing of a tragic situation.
First, excerpts from a transcript of Governor Huckabee's remarks at a recent press conference:
In 1992, Bill Clinton was governor; Jim Guy Tucker was Lieutenant Governor. And during Bill Clinton's governorship, while he was campaigning for president, Jim Guy Tucker signed the papers to commute the sentence of Wayne DuMond to parole eligibility. That's what made him parole eligible in 1992. He had been convicted of rape in Forest City Arkansas, during time of awaiting trial, he was hogtied and castrated; his testicles were later placed in a jar on the desk of a sheriff.In an interview with MSNBC, correspondent David Shuster had this to say:
It was a brutal, amazingly, just, complicated case. There were all kinds of questions about the case... Let me make it clear, governors in Arkansas cannot parole anybody. The parole process is separated from governor; the governor can commute a sentence to make it parole eligible. The actual parole is handled completely separate from the governor.
When I came into office... the file of Wayne DuMond was on my desk... I originally considered it, indicated even an intention I that might grant [commutation to time served]. There was an incredible outcry over that, I ultimately requested to deny it. Primarily for the reason I believed there needed to be some supervision; I was not completely confident that it would be appropriate for him to get out without supervision. He had a unblemished prison record - an exemplary record in terms of getting along as an inmate. He had met all the qualifications for being paroled, including having a job lined up, a sponsor with a church in Houston, TX, originally.
I chose ultimately not to pardon him. I made a visit to the parole board early in my tenure as a governor at the request of chairman... [E]very member of that parole board had been appointed by Jim Guy Tucker or Bill Clinton. Not one of them appointed by me. I'm a new Republican governor, they'd never seen one... So at their invitation, I went to the meeting; someone brought up this case.
Frankly, it was simply part of a broader discussion; I did not ask them to do anything. I did indicate it was sitting at my desk; and I was giving thought to it. But this was probably in, I'm thinking maybe September or October when that meeting was held; I can't remember exactly. The parole board, the following year, early '97 approved his parole plan after I had denied the further commutation.
Subsequent to that, he… I can't remember exactly the timing, he left there, went to MO, unfortunately was later convicted for the murder of one woman and awaiting trial for the murder of another when he died in prison.
It was a horrible situation, horrible, I feel awful about it in every way. I wish that there was some way I could go back and reverse the clock and put him back in prison. But nobody, not me, not Jim Guy Tucker, not Bill Clinton, not that parole board, could ever imagine what might have transpired.
I am deeply sorry, and I mean, awfully, just horrified of what happened. And there is not a single person that will ever bring those women back to their families. But that's the story, that's what happened.
And yes it will come up in the presidential campaign. It came up in my governor's campaign. There will be people who are victims who will probably be brought forth to make statements but, you know, I can't fix it. I can only tell the truth and let the truth be my judge.
David Shuster, MSNBC Correspondent: I have said this before, I have always said this since 1996, that I thought Governor Huckabee had the best political skills, raw political talent of anybody I have covered, but Governor Huckabee, since I have been in Arkansas, I know that it is ridiculous for people to claim that you somehow pressured a parole board that as you said was filled with people from Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker. But the key question with this Wayne Dumond story is, did you agree with the parole board as your former aide, Olin "Butch" Reeves suggests when he says that you agreed with the parole board's decision regarding Wayne Dumond?The former senior aide, Olan Reeves, whose comments were used by the Huffington Post as the basis of their major article attacking Huckabee, has just come out to refute their distortion of his comments and to corroborate the Governor's account:
Huckabee: I did, David. I agreed with it. I regret agreeing with it, but I did. Now agreeing with it that doesn't mean that I had an official role because as you well know in Arkansas law, a governor cannot initiate a parole and a governor can't stop a parole. That is the sole domain of the parole board.
I did support what they did. And before me was a commutation request that would have further reduced his sentence meaning he didn't have to go to the parole board. That's what I denied which kept him in the domain of the parole board instead of just simply turning him loose. Even after that, I denied further commutation requests, three additional times.
And there is something about that statement. Mr. Reeves is outraged today because the Huffington Post totally misrepresented and just utterly distorted his statements. We have a statement from Mr. Reeves that will be on our website, MikeHuckabee.com today, and I think you will find out that this agenda of the Huffington Post is outrageously misleading. Let's go beyond, it is just down right false.
A report on the left-wing blog, The Huffington Post makes allegations against Mike Huckabee that are inaccurate and distort the truth. According to the HuffPo article, Olan W. “Butch” Reeves, a former senior aide of former Governor Mike Huckabee, “directly contradicts” the Governor’s account of a meeting between himself and the Arkansas state parole board that took place on October 31, 1996.Finally, J. Ritterbush of RightSmart has done some great background research on the Dumond case, news coverage, editorials, and more. He concludes:
In fact, Mr. Reeves completely corrobates Mr. Huckabee’s account of the meeting.
In 1996, Mike Huckabee became Governor of Arkansas. That August the Post Prison Transfer Board reviewed a request for a pardon from DuMond and decided to recommend to the Governor that the request had “no merit.” That decision was sent to the Governor. The Board’s decision is a recommendation and not binding on the Governor.
When the Governor received the file with the recommendation from the Board, his review of the case led him to issue an “intent to grant” the clemency. There then followed a mandatory period for the Governor to receive comments from the public. The DuMond case was very controversial and the Governor received many comments, both supporting and opposing his consideration of a pardon.
During this time period, the Board – which was composed entirely of Democrats appointed either by Bill Clinton, or Jim Guy Tucker — issued an invitation to the new Republican Governor to come to a meeting to become acquainted and discuss his philosophy of clemency.
It is this October ’96 meeting which is now the focus of attention. One of the Board members, Charles Chastain, is now alleging publicly that the Governor used that meeting to pressure the Board to grant DuMond parole.
In fact, just the opposite is true: Mr. Chastain attempted to dissuade Governor Huckabee from his intent to grant clemency to DuMond.
“They are saying that the Governor was trying to persuade them to grant parole,” said Reeves, “it was the other way around, they were trying to persuade him not to grant clemency.”
At the time Mr. Reeves served as chief counsel to the Governor and attended the October meeting with Governor Huckabee in his official capacity.
Mr. Reeves asserts categorically that parole for DuMond was “never mentioned” during the meeting. (“I told this guy [Waas], that’s not why we had that meeting.”) The quotes attributed to Reeves in The Huffington Post article, authored by Murray Waas, all relate to a conversation which was about Governor Huckabee’s stated intention to grant DuMond clemency.
In response to the Governor’s explanation of why he intended to grant DuMond clemency, Chastain then stated why he was against it. The Governor, according to Reeves replied, “Well, okay, it’s a difference of opinion.” And the discussion ended.
The Huffington Post article asserts that the Reeves account contradicts the Governor’s version when, in fact, everything Mr. Reeves describes corroborates Governor Huckabee’s statement on the issue, as quoted by Waas:
“He never mentioned parole at that meeting,” says Mr. Reeves. “The Governor was talking about clemency.”
On January 16, 1997 the Board took up a reconsideration of DuMond’s parole request and voted to grant parole with the stipulation that DuMond be paroled out of state.
That same afternoon the Governor denied the clemency request. He sent a letter to DuMond that has been widely reported saying, (excerpted):
“Dear Wayne, I have reviewed your applications for executive clemency, specifically a commutation and/or pardon. … My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel now that parole is the best way for your reintegration into society. … Therefore, after careful consideration … I have denied your applications.”
The Governor’s approach to the DuMond case has been consistent. As he expressed in the letter, he did believe that DuMond should be released from prison. However, he denied clemency/pardon FOUR TIMES. Even after the Board granted parole with the out-of-state stipulation, Governor Huckabee denied two subsequent clemency requests. DuMond could not find a state which would take him, so he remained in prison for TWO MORE YEARS. It was during this time that the Governor continued to deny him clemency.
If the Governor was actively seeking to release DuMond, he could have easily done so by granting him clemency. He did not do so.
Finally, September 16, 1999 the Board, during a regular progress report on DuMond, dropped the out-of state condition for parole. The Governor took no action to promote this decision and did not know it was coming.
In October of that year, DuMond was released.
According to York's National Review article, the Parole Board in Arkansas voted twice to parole Wayne Dumond. At the worst, Huckabee could be accused of lending his personal support toward paroling Dumond, who served nearly 14 years for his rape conviction. Huckabee's official intervention would have been a charitable and reasonable act, but one rendered unnecessary by the Parole Board's votes.
Leaders of good character and moral principles can and will make some decisions proven faulty in hindsight. Given his record as governor, no one can seriously claim that Huckabee is soft on crime, but thankfully, neither is he without mercy or charity. It is Huckabee's record of compassionate conservatism, seasoned with 10 years of eloquent and effective leadership in a traditionally "blue" state which has captured the surging hopes of evangelical voters at the grassroots. It would be a grave mistake if other voters across the county could not forgive Huckabee for a charitable gesture in a case that ended tragically.