Sunday, January 28, 2007

On Meet the Press this morning, Tim Russert asked former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee about my story in the Arkansas Times disclosing how Huckabee had pressured his state's parole board to parole a convicted rapist, Wayne Dumond, who not long after leaving prison, raped and murdered two women.

Among other things, Huckabee said my story was a "tabloid report."

He also defended his actions by saying that the members of the parole board that paroled Dumond had been appointed by his two Democratic predecessors, Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker.

What Huckabee didn't say was that irrespective as to who appointed the parole board, it was Huckabee, not Clinton or Tucker, who advocated, lobbied, and pressured the board to parole Dumond. (For the record, Clinton actually recused himself from any involvment in the matter, because of allegations that the rape victim, Ashley Stevens, was a distrant relative of Clinton's. And Tucker had reduced Dummond's sentence from life imprisonment to 39 1/2 years.)

Further, although indeed originally appointed by Clinton and Tucker, two of the parole board members who voted the way that Huckabee wanted them to-- including the chairman of the parole board-- were reappointed by Huckabee.

Huckabee also claimed this morning that when he spoke to the parole board in an executive session regarding Dumond,, he was only seeking that Dumond's case "be given a fair hearing," and that the board, not him, raised the issue with him.

The parole board members, as my story detailed, claim otherwise: they told me that it was Huckabee and not them who raised the issue with the board, and that he was a strong advocate of releasing Dumond from prison. More than one told me that they thought it inappropriate for a governor to advocate on behalf of a prisoner.

This morning, when asked who brought up Dumond when Huckabee met with the parole board, Huckabee claimed: "They brought it up with me." He then added: "The only thing I said was this: [They said to me[ `Did you think he ought to be paroled or something like this. And I simply said his case ought to get a serious look."

Contrary to such claims by the governor, during interviews for my Arkansas Times story, four parole board members disputed Huckabee's account as to what transpired between Huckabee and the board, saying that Huckabee was the one to bring up the subject, and he cleraly advocated for Dumond's parole. Three of those board members spoke for the record and at length for the story.

Board member Charles Chastain told me Huckabee told the board: "There is this one case I want to talk to you about." Huckabee then "commented that Wayne Dumond had received, from his perspective, a raw deal, that he was someone from the wrong side of the tracks ... and that he had received what he thought was too long a sentence for that type of crime."

Chastain said he then replied, "Governor, well that happens. When you rape a cheerleader in a small town like that, that’s what is going to happen."

The board's chairman, Leroy Brownlee, who was reappointed by Huckabee, and who worked closely with Huckabee's office to parole Dumond, has repeatedly declined to talk about the matter at all. But while refusing to say anything bad about Huckabee, Brownlee has also never backed Huckabee's version of events or said anything to contradict his fellow board members.

Many thanks to Tim Russert for asking the right questions. And John A'mato has the video up of Russert grilling Huckabee about Dumond.

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