Mike Huckabee's Tangled Web

[Cross-posted at Firedoglake, 12/06/07]

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive....

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is on the ropes after his repeated denials that he recommended parole for Arkansas rapist and murderer Wayne Dumond. For background on the Wayne Dumond case, check out Byron York's article today at the National Review.

It began in September 1984, when Dumond, a 35-year-old handyman, kidnapped and raped a 17-year-old high-school cheerleader in the small eastern-Arkansas town of Forrest City. Dumond was allowed to remain free on bond while awaiting trial, and in March 1985 two masked men entered his house, tied him up with fishing line, and castrated him. People were stunned; the case, already notorious, became much more so. And that was before the local sheriff, a rather colorful man named Coolidge Conlee, displayed Dumond’s severed testicles in a jar of formaldehyde on his desk in the St. Francis County building. Amid tons of publicity, Dumond was found guilty and sentenced to life plus 20 years.

The case took on a political coloring when it became known that the victim was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton. After conviction, Dumond, who claimed he was innocent, asked Clinton for clemency. Clinton declined.

For details about what Huckabee knew about Dumond and when he knew it, see Murray Waas' article at the Huffington Post yesterday. Also, here's a detailed chronology (pdf) of events concerning the case.

York interviewed Huckabee last August about his role in Dumond's release. [More...]

Last August, Huckabee told me he had his doubts about Dumond’s guilt, and also felt sorry for him over the castration attack.
Huckabee didn't parole Dumond, the parole board did that. But Huckabee confirmed to CNN that he wrote Dumond a letter, which, as quoted by Byron York, said in part:
“Dear Wayne,” Huckabee wrote in a letter to Dumond. “My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society to take place.”

Today, Huckabee told Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Situation Room:

BLITZER: Well, what responsibility do you have in this horrible tragedy that developed?

HUCKABEE: Wolf, my only official action in this was I denied his commutation. It was actual given by Jim Guy Tucker when Bill Clinton was governor back in 1992. It was on my desk. I did consider it. I even thought that he met the criteria for parole in support of it.

I wish I hadn't. But I didn't parole him. And governors don't parole people in Arkansas, nor can they stop a parole. And that's the tragedy, I think, that this went through several years and many different people. And all of us failed. That's the truth. All of us failed.
Huckabee, today on CNN, charged the story was being politicized.
"There are families who are truly, understandably and reasonably, grief stricken," Huckabee said. "And for people to now politicize these deaths and to try to make a political case out of it rather than to simply understand that a system failed and that we ought to extend our grief and heartfelt sorrow to these families, I just regret politics is reduced to that."
Now the parole board members are coming out of the woodwork. From ABC News, here's Huckabee's latest version:
"At their invitation, I went to their meeting. Someone brought up his case," Huckabee said Tuesday, describing his meeting with the board. "Frankly it was simply part of a broader discussion. I did not ask them to do anything."
Not so, says Butch Reeves who served as Huckabee's criminal justice counsel and in that capacity worked on all clemency requests.

[Reeves'] account of a key 1996 meeting between then-Gov. Huckabee and the state parole board largely supports an earlier version of the meeting by former board member Charles Chastain. It contrasts with Huckabee's position that he did not pressure the board.

In a phone interview, Reeves said Huckabee told the board members he thought there was "something nefarious" about the criminal justice system in Dumond's case, and that the rapist got a "raw deal." Huckabee said he believed Dumond's sentence, originally a life sentence plus 20 years, was "way out of bounds" for his crime, raping a 17-year-old high school student.
Reeves says he even put Huckabee on the phone with one of Dumond's alleged rape victims. Murray Waas also talked to Reeves today receiving much of the same information as ABC News. Murray adds,
In a 2002 story I wrote for the Arkansas Times about Huckabee's role in freeing Dumond, four board members -- three of who spoke on the record -- said that Huckabee lobbied and pressured board members on the matter. This included the 1996 parole meeting at which the board's recording secretary -- who ordinarily tapes the entire sessions -- was asked to leave the room. Several board members and members of the state legislature have said the secret session violated state law.

Huckabee should have been more honest in the first place. There's nothing wrong with granting clemency or supporting parole. During his term as Governor he granted clemency to hundreds of drug offenders serving excessively long sentences. More Governors should do it.

There also were legitimate doubts about Dumond's guilt in the Ashley Stevens' rape case, involving scientific evidence and her identification of Dumond, which were discussed by the appellate courts in his appeals. (Opinions here, here, here and here (pdf).) In addition, Dumond did get a disproportionately high sentence. According to his lawyer, John Wesley Hall, Dumond was the only person charged in St. Francis County with rape or murder who was sentenced to more than 10 years in the five years before and after the Stevens rape.

Instead of saying, "Yes, I believed Dumond should have been paroled, his sentence was too long, there were doubts about his guilt and I made my thoughts known to the parole board," Huckabee is all over the map, saying he didn't know a lot about the case; he denied clemency and didn't pressure the parole board; it's former Lt. Governor Jim Tucker's fault for reducing Dumond's sentence to 39 1/2 years, making him eligible for parole; Bill Clinton must have known about it; and on and on.

Sometimes the truth will set you free. I think it's too late now for Huckabee. He's caught in a Willie Horton trap, and it's a web of his own making.

Which is really too bad, because while I don't want any Republican as President, someone like Huckabee who is willing to exercise clemency, even if wrong sometimes, is preferable to a candidate like Giuliani who is so intent on furthering his law and order image that he is only capable of showing compassion for former offenders who happen to be his cronies and business associates.

< Thursday Open Thread | Huckabee and Wayne Dumond: Interview With Dumond's Attorney >
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    Only superficially like Willie Horton (none / 0) (#1)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:11:50 PM EST
    One of TPM's readers makes a valid point:

    ...this case is only superficially like Willie Horton. As I recall, Michael Dukakis did not advocate the release of Willie Horton specifically, whereas Mike Huckabee did advocate specifically for the release of Wayne Dumond.

    The bottom line is simple. Mike Huckabee championed the release of a specific convicted rapist who, once release, raped and killed a woman in Missouri. The furlough policy advocated by Mike Dukakis led to the furlough of Willie Horton, who raped a woman in Maryland and stabbed her fiancee. But Mike Dukakis had never heard of Willie Horton, whereas Mike Huckabee was well aware of the crimes and dangers posed by Wayne Dumond.

    Absolutely correct, Molly, but (none / 0) (#2)
    by scribe on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:46:20 PM EST
    more to the point is question I have:

    Why bring this negative story about Huckabee up now?

    The conventional media response would be "because he's surging to be the front-runner" or some similar horse-race nonsense.  

    But, this is old news in the purest sense of the word - it was pretty well explored almost a decade ago and spread across the pages of - at least - the Arkansas papers then.  So, where did this latest iteration of the story begin?

    Best I can tell, NRO - National Review Online.  

    Why would a preeminent Republican outlet put out a negative story on a leading Republican candidate?  And, why would the conventional media - who have been quite friendly to all Republican candidates all through the cycle - spend so much time fanning the flames of this particular piece of Republican slime (out of the acres of Republican slime out there)?

    Two words:  Rudy's cratering.  From what I've seen (over at Kos, IIRC, tracking the poll results), Rudy lost 10 points of his support (about a third, that is) over the past week, since the Sex On The City/ShagFund story got legs, finally.  And, this is surely a diversion from Rudy's people roughing up reporters who ask too many follow-up questions about him, Princess Judi, and his/their grafting.

    That, and the Huckabee story coming up now bears all the hallmarks of a Rove slime special.

    Not for nothing, I guess, that the WH made sure to put Rove's protege opposition-researcher Tim Griffin into the US Atty post in Arkansas, to replace the not-quite-loyal-enough-Bushie Bud Cummins.  I commented (somewhere) almost a year ago when the US Atty political-replacement scandal first broke that putting Rove's protege Griffin in wa aimed directly at Huckabee.  Whether I've been proven right be events or not will, since the current "scandal" is old news, depend on whether we get scandals based on new information, if and when Huckabee continues to beat the stuffing out of Rudy Cue Ball's numbers.

    Yeah, whatever (none / 0) (#5)
    by HeadScratcher on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 01:27:59 PM EST
    If any long shot was starting to make noises about getting the lead the press would be all over them and exposing everything.

    This isn't old news to the vast majority of people who live outside of Arkansas - which is to say the vast majority of people.

    The press isn't going to be looking too heavily into Ron Paul's past or Chris Dodd's past because, as of now, they have the same chance as winning their respective parities nominations as you or I do - zero. If that changes you will be seeing stories about essays they wrote while they were in kindergarten!


    Blink, blink, blink... (none / 0) (#3)
    by bselznick on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:54:26 PM EST
    I watched the interview with Wolfy yesterday.  I have never sat and watched Huck before, does he normally blink every second, or every 1/2 second.  I have read that this is a sign of lying.  I swear for the entire interview he blinks at least once every second.

    It is too bad..... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 12:54:31 PM EST
    After Ron Paul, Huckabee is the easiest to stomach of the Republicans.

    He needs to set the record straight, and (god forbid) admit he may have made a mistake in granting this man clemency.  And I'd suggest he follow up his mea culpa with a statement saying he still believes in clemency when there is reasonable doubt about a conviction.

    Come clean Mike, and fast...the american people respect that kind of thing.  Keep trying to spin it and you're done...see Guiliani, Rudy.

    Do we really want (none / 0) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 01:53:12 PM EST
    another ex-Arkansas governor as Prez?????

    no, i suppose (5.00 / 0) (#8)
    by cpinva on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 05:24:19 PM EST
    we could always get another ex-gov. of texas. oh, wait, the one we have now has messed the entire country up!

    never mind!


    Actually and this may surprise you.. (1.00 / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Dec 07, 2007 at 10:14:56 AM EST
    I mean you always being so up to date...

    Bush nor anyone else from Texas will be on the Repub ticket for President...

    Feel free to tell everyone you know.


    Bill Clinton was a pretty good President (none / 0) (#7)
    by Molly Bloom on Thu Dec 06, 2007 at 03:19:55 PM EST
    competent too. I might disqualify Huck for a lot of reasons. Being governor of Arkansas isn't one of them.

    Yes, Bubba was a good ole boy (1.00 / 0) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Dec 07, 2007 at 10:11:57 AM EST
    Fit Arkansas to a tee.. No matter which way the wind blew when he and Hill were around there was the smell of corruption...

    Let us take this moment to remember a few of them...

    The White House Travel office... Hillary siced the FBI on them...

    The largest amount, $410,607, went to lawyers for Billy Dale, the former travel office director who was acquitted of embezzlement. Mr. Dale was the only one of the employees who faced legal charges, and five workers were later hired in other Government jobs.

    The White House acknowledged it had mishandled the dismissals and retracted most of the charges

    NY Times

    And then we have FileGate:

    Allegations were made that senior White House figures including First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton may have requested and read the files for political purposes, and that the First Lady had authorized the hiring of the underqualified Livingstone.


    Nothing was ever proven... the files appeared by themselves and Livingstone couldn't remember who hired him.  LOL.

    And then there was Whitewater, the billing files that were lost for years and then found in a Whitehouse closet...the $100,000 made in less than  a year by Hillary trading futures... she then stopped and never traded again...hehehe...Bill's chance at picking up OBL, but wouldn't do it...wouldn't be "legal..." Ever wonder how man dead that chicken decision has caused... children and innocent men and women burning to death at Waco... some claim that was the trigger for Oklahoma City... the fact that Bubba never went to the site of WTCI... many say his apparent lack of NATIONAL concern emboldened the terrorists..to Chinese restaurant owners....to export licenses to companies shipping satellite technology that was readily adaptable...

    To NY Chinese making zip point zip giving $2000 to a Chinese national collecting millions to...

    I could go on and on but I don't think I need to.

    So keep your Arkansas politicians. Their problems are legend.. from prison graveyards to corrupt sheriffs to preachers who become governors to governors who became President... both carrying bibles and never missing church...

    BTW - Did you read where a worker for Hillary has been fired because she was sending out emails claiming Obama's religion was secretly Islam???

    Nice people the Clintons always seem to hire...

    We don't need them. The country has better


    Your Clinton Psychosis is showing (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Molly Bloom on Sun Dec 09, 2007 at 11:34:39 AM EST
    I would remind you that 3 Republican prosecutors, including an irresponsibly political one (Starr) investigated all of this crap and decided there was no there there.

    Ya got Bill for having sex with someone other than his wife. Congratulations. Job well done.

    This is way off topic.  To return to the topic at hand, there is reason enough to disqualify Huck- being the former governor of Arkansas isn't one of them.

    Tell me bright eyes, are all former Texas governors disqualified from being president, now that the worst president in the history of the nation is an ex Texas governor?

    Are all people named Bush disqualified from being president, now that the worst president in the history of the nation is... on the other hand, given JEB's sleazy record, GHWB's failed presidency maybe the Bush family should be disqualified!