Huckabee bashers are off to the races to see who can throw the most blame on the ex-Arkansas Governor for a decision made nine years ago to commute the 108 year sentence of Maurice Clemmons to a term of 47 years making him immediately eligible for parole.
At the time, Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Marion Humphrey said that the cumulative sentence that Clemmons had been given as a result of multiple offenses was excessive and advised the awarding of clemency as did the parole board. Based on this advice and concurrence by the court, the experts, Huckabee granted the petition for clemency. The Arkansas Parole Board immediately and unanimously approved Clemmons’ release on July 13, 2000, and Clemmons was set free on August 1, 2000.
In just seven months, March 2001, Clemmons wasted the second chance given to him and violated parole by committing aggravated robbery and theft. He was convicted on July 13, 2001 and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Subsequently, due to problems with the case (prosecutorial ineptness?), parole violation charges were dismissed. Clemmons was granted parole on the robbery charges in 2004 and managed to stay clear of the law until May of this year when, it seems, he began to self destruct. The culmination of this deterioration was the horrendous attack on the police officers November 29th, 2009.
Some are saying that Huckabee let this animal go or that he turned this monster loose on an unsuspecting society while the truth is that the parole board made the decision to release him. The rhetoric that Huckabee did this purely for political gain also seems a little lame to me. This was nine years ago. No one knew who Huckabee was except the people of Arkansas and he was already Governor. What was to be gained? I have not tried to go back and read the press releases from the time of the commutation but would almost be willing to lay odds that this incident was not even a blip on the radar screen for most of the people of Arkansas.
Huckabee gave this person a second chance and he blew it yet no one appears to be pounding all of the subsequent law enforcement, probation and judiciary personnel who had their hands on him as recently as a few weeks prior to the incident involving the shooting of the four police officers. There were many who, over the course of the nine years since the commutation, had far more reason to keep him behind bars and failed to do so.
The majority of the criticism, of course, is coming from the “tough on crime” right but there are those on the “left” who have also weighed in making this another political football that will have no clear resolution. While you and I may completely agree or disagree on the merits of having Huckabee as president or his stance on any number of issues, in the context of criminal justice reform I don’t care what his position is on those other issues. He made a valid, carefully considered decision to commute a 108 year sentence down to 47 years based on the best advice available from the “experts” and a recommendation from the sentencing judge. What else was he supposed to base his decision on, the wonderful 20/20 hindsight that some seem to be blessed with?
The “left” and “right” battle is tearing this country apart to the point where it is almost impossible to hear any rational commentary on any issue. I have seen a few who are willing to put aside at least a little of their prejudice and say that what Huckabee did was the right thing to do. Right/Left, adherence to “party line” ideology is keeping any meaningful dialogue from taking place on too many issues to count and criminal justice reform is high on the list. I have said this before, and will continue to do so until we see change. Politicians have two top priorities. Their number one priority is getting elected, number two is getting re-elected and the needs of “We The People” are a far distant third.
Anyone who follows this blog will know that I am an advocate for H.R. 1529 the “Second Chance for Ex-Offenders Act of 2009”, says so right up there in my bio right? This legislation is a prime example of how partisan politics have, over a period of eight years and six versions, prevented the passage into law of a bill that will benefit untold thousands of ex-offenders not to mention the taxpayer who funds all of this nonsense. Follow along and I’ll show you how and why.
In 2003, the third version of the bill, H.R 1434, introduced to the 108th Congress had 33 co-sponsors as follows:
Abercrombie, Neil HI, Acevedo-Vila, Anibal PR, Ballance, Frank NC, Bell, Chris TX,
Blumenauer, Earl OR, Brady, Robert PA, Brown, Corrine FL, Capuano, Michael MA, Carson, Julia IN, Christensen, Donna VI, Cummings, Elijah MD, Davis, Artur AL, Davis, Danny IL, Filner, Bob CA, Frank, Barney MA, Gonzalez, Charles TX, Grijalva, Raul AZ, Jefferson, William LA, Jones, Stephanie OH, Kilpatrick, Carolyn MI, Kucinich, Dennis OH, Lee, Barbara CA, Lewis, John GA, McNulty, Michael NY, Meeks, Gregory NY, Millender-McDonald, Juanita CA, Norton, Eleanor DC, Owens, Major NY, Payne, Donald NJ, Thompson, Bennie MS, Waters, Maxine CA, Watson, Diane CA, Wynn, Albert MD
The number of co-sponsors for subsequent versions then dropped to 27, then 17, then in the current version to Zero. Know why? Partisan politics. The merits of the legislation are not a factor. The first five versions failed under a “tough on crime” Republican administration even though the Democrats controlled congress for much of this time. The current version, H.R. 1529, is in trouble in a completely Democrat controlled administration because there are now no co-sponsors. Again, do you know why? Yep, partisan politics and because not one member of congress has the backbone to stand up and support a bill introduced by Congressman Charles Rangel who is under investigation on ethics charges. They are too fearful of getting a little of Rangel’s mud splashed on them. One Republican Senator told a supporter that he would support no legislation introduced by a Democrat period. I am sure that there are Democrats who have made similar statements. I invite you to take a look at the 33 co-sponsors listed. Some of them are no longer in Congress. One, Jefferson of Louisiana, was convicted on Federal Felony charges for hiding ill-gotten booty in his freezer, but consider the majority who are still there; read their names. Do you agree with all that they stand for? How many of them are also, like Rangel, under investigation? Why do they not have their names on the current version of this legislation? Partisan polit
Here is a thought. Maybe we should have blind, non partisan, introduction of legislation, then an up or down secret ballot based strictly on the merits. Naaa, never work. Too bad, people are hurting while Congress dithers and plays games with their lives.