As Michael wrote earlier, Mike Huckabee has been taking a beating over the Wayne Dumond affair, not least at the Huffington Post. There, Arianna wrote:
While on the campaign trail, Huckabee has claimed that he supported the 1999 release of Wayne Dumond because, at the time, he had no good reason to believe that the man represented a further threat to the public. Thanks to Huckabee’s intervention, conducted in concert with a right-wing tabloid campaign on Dumond’s behalf, Dumond was let out of prison 25 years before his sentence would have ended.
“There’s nothing any of us could ever do,” Huckabee said Sunday on CNN when asked to reflect on the horrific outcome caused by the prisoner’s release. “None of us could’ve predicted what [Dumond] could’ve done when he got out.”
But the confidential files obtained by the Huffington Post show that Huckabee was provided letters from several women who had been sexually assaulted by Dumond and who indeed predicted that he would rape again – and perhaps murder – if released.
In a letter that has never before been made public, one of Dumond’s victims warned: “I feel that if he is released it is only a matter of time before he commits another crime and fear that he will not leave a witness to testify against him the next time.” Before Dumond was granted parole at Huckabee’s urging, records show that Huckabee’s office received a copy of this letter from Arkansas’ parole board.
That Wayne Dumond was released was a travesty of justice. With the wisdom of hindsight, that is obvious. As with Michael Dukakis and Willie Horton, Huckabee has been criticized for having in charge when Dumond was put on parole. As the person who ultimately signed off on Dumond’s release, the criticism is justified. But is that all Mike Huckabee did in this case?
As a Republican presidential contender whose numbers have been on the rise of late, the piling on that’s now happening is inevitable. But not all of the slants are relevant. Whether Arkansas should have kept Dumond in jail isn’t the issue. Clearly he should have been held. Neither is whether Mr. Huckabee and his staff did enough due diligence in predicting Dumond’s murderous future. Mistakes are an inevitable part of governing. Sadly, this one was tragic.
I think we can acknowledge that justice was not served in Wayne Dumond’s case. This is not a new story – it’s been known for years – and neither is it ironic that the issue should come up again now the Huckabee’s popularity is rising. It was inevitable that Huckabee’s campaign reach to this crisis.
One issue that is important is whether Huckabee leaned on the Arkansas parole board to ensure Dumond’s release. The evidence is compelling but not concrete. Murray S. Waas wrote in 2002:
I signed the [parole] papers because the governor wanted Dumond paroled. I was thinking the governor was working for the best interests of the state.”
—Ermer Pondexter, ex-member of the board of pardons and paroles
But the Times’ new reporting shows the extent to which Huckabee and a key aide were involved in the process to win Dumond’s release. It was a process marked by deviation from accepted parole practice and direct personal lobbying by the governor, in an apparently illegal and unrecorded closed-door meeting with the parole board (the informal name by which the Post Prison Transfer Board is known).
Now Waas writes for the Huffington Post:
In a 2002 story I wrote for the Arkansas Times about Huckabee’s role in freeing Dumond, four board members — three of whom 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, in turn, has said that all four parole board members have lied about his role in Dumond’s release from prison.
Huckabee has also noted that all of the parole board members who have said he lobbied them Dumond were Democrats and that they were pursuing a partisan agenda in making their allegations.
Perhaps Huckabee did throw his weight around. I would not be surprised. That’s what many leaders do, whether governors, senators, or presidents. In itself that is not important. The motivations behind Dumond’s release and the results of that action, however, are important.
Yes, Mike Huckabee made an ill-advised decision 8 years ago. What matters is why he made that decision and whether he is telling the truth about what he did.
Regarding Huckabee’s motivation, Arianna wrote:
In 1996, as a newly elected governor who had received strong support from the Christian right, Huckabee was under intense pressure from conservative activists to pardon Dumond or commute his sentence. The activists claimed that Dumond’s initial imprisonment and various other travails were due to the fact that Ashley Stevens, the high school cheerleader he had raped, was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton, and the daughter of a major Clinton campaign contributor.
It also became a cause for New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy, who repeatedly argued for Dumond’s release, calling his conviction “a travesty of justice.” On Sept. 21, 1999, Dunleavy wrote a column headlined “Clinton’s Biggest Crime – Left Innocent Man In Jail For 14 Years“.
(Note: Steve Dunleavy’s article is no longer available at the NY Post. The link above purports to be the contents of it.)
Huffington eagerly concludes that Huckabee’s pardon was a politically motivated slap at Bill Clinton, who was both a Democrat and an embarrassment to Arkansas. But there is little evidence to support that conclusion. Neither can it be demonstrated that Huckabee read the victims’ letters urging that Dumond’s incarceration be extended or that he was motivated by Steve Dunleavy’s tabloid journalism.
It’s just as likely that Huckabee’s genuine desire to be merciful was what tripped him up in this case. Undoubtedly he learned a painful lesson – mercy is not always deserved.
Despite the varied attacks, it is exclusively the voices that claim that Mike Huckabee coerced the Arkansas parole board – the officials whose responsibility it is to judge whether criminals deserve to be released or not – into freeing a dangerous sex offender that make the case against him convincing.
While the members of the parole board appointed by Democrats might decide to sabotage Huckagee’s presidential ambitions, it has not been explained why even Butch Reeve, a former aide who allegedly remains close to Huckabee, is under the impression that the parole board members are telling the truth.
At this point it seems as though the case for coercion is compelling. If true, it’s my hope that Huckabee will be honest, accept responsibility for his actions, deal with the damage, and proceed to move his campaign forward.
My support for Huckabee was based on the belief that he is the Republican candidate who is most likely to be direct and honest with voters about himself and his agenda. That confidence is now somewhat shaken.
Trust, as we all know, must be earned. Mike Huckabee will need to prove himself worthy of a nation’s confidence in the coming days.