It’s long and hard to summarize but you’ll simply have to plow through this old Murray Waas piece from the Arkansas Times about the Dumond parole saga if you want to be able to evaluate Huck’s defense here. A timeline may help:
Aug. 29, 1996: The parole board votes 4-1 to deny Dumond parole.
Sept. 10, 1996: The board recommends against clemency and a pardon by 5-0 votes.
Sept. 20, 1996: “Gov. Huckabee announced his intention to commute Wayne Dumond’s sentence to time served.”(!) That started the 120-day clock on a final decision, to be delivered on Jan. 20, 1997.
Oct. 31, 1996: Huck meets with the parole board — in an unusual closed-door, off-the-record executive session. Quote:
Chastain, Suttlar and two other board members who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Huckabee made it known that he favored a commutation of Dumond’s sentence.
All four also said it was when Huckabee brought up the subject that the chairman, Brownlee, closed the meeting to the press.
Nov. 29, 1996: Dumond sends a request for reconsideration of parole to the board. New parole hearings are typically heard no sooner than a year after the previous denial, which would have been Aug. 29, 1997 in Dumond’s case, unless a board member approves a request for reconsideration. Brownlee approves Dumond’s request.
Dec. 19, 1996: Dumond is transferred from the Varner prison unit to the Tucker prison unit, thereby rendering him eligible to be included in the next round of parole hearings, which were to be drawn from the Tucker unit.
Jan. 9, 1997: Brownlee visits Dumond and personally interviews him.
Jan. 13, 1997: Huck reappoints Railey Steele — a Democratic appointee — to the board. Steele voted against parole for Dumond in August.
Jan. 16, 1997: A mere four days before the deadline for Huck’s decision on commuting Dumond’s sentence, the board votes 4-1 to parole him, thus rendering the decision moot and bailing Huck out of a political jam. Steele votes yes this time.
Feb. 28, 2002: Huck reappoints Brownlee — a former Democratic secretary of state — to the board for a seven-year term.
Hmmm. Now watch the clip. Huck makes an interesting point in noting that the four board members who claim he lobbied for Dumond waited, oddly enough, until 2002 to mention any of this. On the other hand, his point about their possible political biases cuts both ways: Waas’s article clearly suggests that the board may have reversed itself on Dumond precisely because Huck was a Republican and they were Democrats and they wanted to keep their cozy parole board sinecures. Huck also conveniently doesn’t mention that he felt so passionately about Dumond that he was preparing to commute his sentence, something that hit me like a thunderbolt while reading Waas’s piece. As did this, incidentally:
On the day of the vote, Huckabee released a statement in support of the board’s action: “I concur with the board’s action and hope the lives of all those involved can move forward. The action of the board accomplishes what I sought to do in considering an earlier request for commutation …
“In light of the action of the board, my original intent to commute the sentence to time served is no longer relevant.”
There’s no question, in other words, that Huck wanted Dumond freed. The one and only question is whether he lifted a finger to make it happen. Officially he didn’t. Unofficially? Read Waas’s piece. I think he might have defused this whole thing by taking a Trumanesque “the buck stops here” approach and admitting that he’d made an error in judgment and he’ll forever regret it. Instead he spends the first two minutes or so of the clip spreading the blame. Weak.
I also included the bit at the end about him not knowing about the NIE until yesterday. He says he was busy. And let’s face it: with the media maelstrom of his poll climb the past few days, he kind of was.
Update: Murray Waas has a new piece up at HuffPo. Huck will have something to say soon, I’m sure, about Butch Reeves.
Directly contradicting Mike Huckabee’s claims, his former senior aide tells the Huffington Post that, as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee indeed told the state’s parole board that he supported the release of a convicted rapist.
The senior aide, Olan W. “Butch” Reeves, personally attended a controversial parole board meeting with Huckabee in Oct. 1996.
“The clear impression that I came away with from the meeting was that he favored Dumond’s release,” Reeves said, referring to convicted rapist Wayne Dumond. “And I can understand why board members would believe that to be the case.”
Update: Huck’s camp responds to HuffPo’s story on Reeves. The dispute seems to turn on whether Huck lobbied the board to grant parole or whether the board (or any of its members) lobbied him not to grant clemency. Why would the board care what Huck did, though? If it’s because they thought Dumond was dangerous, why would they vote to grant parole three months later?
Update: Joe Carter, Huck’s director of research, e-mails in response:
To answer your question, the clemency would have let him go completely –with no parole. At the times there were many people in AR that thought Dumond was railroaded. Some on the parole board, though, thought that he was guilty and that parole was the best approach to take. Later on (Dumond wasn’t paroled until several years later) Governor Huckabee came around to their point of view.
By the way, your update doesn’t mention that Reeves says that Waas twisted his words.