Nov. 30, 2009 -- Any political ambitions of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee could be hurt by his role in freeing Maurice Clemmons, the gunman suspected in the execution murders of four police officers in Washington State -- especially since Clemmons would not be the first criminal Huckabee helped to free who later committed murder.
Clemmons was serving 95 years when Huckabee, then governor of Arkansas, commuted his sentence in 2000. Clemmons is now being sought in the murders of four Lakewood, Wash. police officers, who were ambushed and shot in a coffee shop Sunday morning.
Four years earlier, Huckabee also pushed for the parole of rapist Wayne Dumond despite chilling testimonies from victims and their relatives that he was a dangerous criminal who would strike again. Ashley Stevens, a 17-year-old cheerleader when Dumond raped her, told ABC News in 2007 that she put her face inches from Huckabee's and said, "This is how close I was to Wayne Dumond, and I will never forget his face, and you will never forget mine. He's the one that raped me."
But Dumond, serving a life sentence for raping Stevens, was released in 1999 following reported public and private efforts by Huckabee on his behalf. Within a year of his release, he was accused of raping and murdering two more women. He was convicted of raping and murdering one of the women and returned to jail, where he died in 2005.
Prior to his imprisonment for rape, Dumond's record included a conviction for assault and his alleged involvement in a slaying and one other rape. Stevens, the victim in the 1985 rape for which he was convicted, was a distant relative of Bill Clinton's, and Dumond became a cause celebrity among some who thought he had been dealt with harshly because of the victim's relationship to then-Governor Clinton. Huckabee had originally indicated a desire to commute Dumond's sentence, but decided not to after unfavorable public response.
Dumond's Victims Begged Huckabee Not To Release Him
Documentation of Dumond's dangerousness -- including graphic, emotional letters from his alleged victims and their family members -- was in Huckabee's gubernatorial files at the time he was advocating Dumond's release. The news Web site Huffington Post obtained copies of two letters from women who said they were raped by Dumond that were allegedly sent to the governor's office.
After first denying the letters were genuine, a spokesperson for Huckabee now confirms at least one of these letters was received by his office.
In one, a woman tells of how Dumond raped her daughter, while her three-year-old grandchild looked on.
"I am also a rape victim of Dumond's," reads another heavily-underlined, bolded letter to Huckabee from the file. "Please reconsider your decision to release Dumond."
Huckabee even met with Ashley Stevens, whose rape had put Dumond behind bars in 1985.
Shortly afterward, in a 1996 closed-door session with the state parole board, Huckabee urged them to recommend Dumond be freed, according to the one member who voted against the release.
"He said the case I want to talk to you about is Wayne Dumond, and this is a guy who may have grown up on the wrong side of the tracks and may have gotten a raw deal," said professor Charles Chastain of the University of Ark. at Little Rock's Criminal Justice Department. "Immediately the other board members who voted on that case decided, apparently, if the governor wants it, he gets it."
Huckabee described the meeting differently.
"At their invitation I went to their meeting, someone brought up his case," he said. "Frankly it was simply part of a broader discussion. I did not ask them to do anything."
Huckabee also told ABC News that it was "ludicrous" to think he could influence the parole board at the time because the members of the board were appointed by his Democratic predecessors, Jim Guy Tucker and Bill Clinton.
But Butch Reeves, formerly the criminal justice counsel to the Arkansas governor's office, who handled all requests for clemencies and communications with prisoners, gave an account of the meeting that largely supports former board member Chastain's version.
Criminal Justice System In Question
In a phone interview with ABC News, 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 said he could recall only a few such appeals being made by a governor.
"The record clearly shows now Mike Huckabee did advocate for Wayne Dumond's release," said David J. Sanders, a political columnist for Stephens Media in Arkansas. "I think there are real questions about whether he has been forthright on this issue."
Huckabee was criticized during the 2008 presidential primaries for his clemency record. According to the Associated Press, Huckabee granted 1,033 clemencies during his 10 years in office. That figure is more than twice the total racked up by his three predecessors as governor in 17 years.
In 2007, Huckabee told ABC News that he believed that the media's attention to the Dumond story was a "complete exploitation."
The mother of Carol Sue Shields, the woman Dumond raped and killed in Missouri, told ABC News at the time that she would do "whatever it takes" to stop Huckabee from becoming president.
"I can't imagine anybody wanting somebody like that running the country," said Lois Davidson.
After the Lakewood shootings Sunday, Huckabee posted a statement on his Web site. If Clemmons is found to be responsible for the shooting, he wrote, "It will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system."
Click here to read Huckabee's complete statement.
Huckabee is now the host of a talk show on Fox News and has downplayed his interest in running for president again in 2012, despite polls that show he remains popular among Republican voters.