FORMER HUCKABEE AIDE DENOUNCES HUFFPO DISTORTION;
Corroborates Huckabee Account of Disputed Meeting:
“He was not trying to influence the Board”
(In addition to this rebuttal to the Huffington Post article, see the comment from Miranda who was living in Arkansas at the time – click here to read the post and comment)
A report on the left-wing blog, The Huffington Post makes allegations against Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee that are inaccurate and distort the truth. According to the HuffPo article, Olan W. “Butch” Reeves, a former senior aide of former Governor Mike Huckabee, “directly contradicts” the Governor’s account of a meeting between himself and the Arkansas state parole board that took place on October 31, 1996.
In fact, Mr. Reeves completely corrobates Mr. Huckabee’s account of the meeting.
As background to the controversy, in 1985, Wayne DuMond was convicted of raping Ashley Stephens and was sentenced to life in prison. Subsequently, in 1992 then-Governor of Arkansas, Jim Guy Tucker granted executive clemency for DuMond which commuted his sentence to 39.5 years. This act made DuMond immediately eligible for parole.
In 1996, Mike Huckabee became Governor of Arkansas. That August the Post Prison Transfer Board reviewed a request for a pardon from DuMond and decided to recommend to the Governor that the request had “no merit.” That decision was sent to the Governor. The Board’s decision is a recommendation and not binding on the Governor.
When the Governor received the file with the recommendation from the Board, his review of the case led him to issue an “intent to grant” the clemency. There then followed a mandatory period for the Governor to receive comments from the public. The DuMond case was very controversial and the Governor received many comments, both supporting and opposing his consideration of a pardon.
During this time period, the Board – which was composed entirely of Democrats appointed either by Bill Clinton, or Jim Guy Tucker — issued an invitation to the new Republican Governor to come to a meeting to become acquainted and discuss his philosophy of clemency.
Please note a crucial distinction: clemency (or pardon) is separate and distinct from parole. Only the Governor can grant clemency or pardon; the Parole Board reviews and grants parole. The Governor is not involved in parole decisions.
It is this October ’96 meeting which is now the focus of attention. One of the Board members, Charles Chastain, is now alleging publicly that the Governor used that meeting to pressure the Board to grant DuMond parole.
In fact, just the opposite is true: Mr. Chastain attempted to dissuade Governor Huckabee from his intent to grant clemency to DuMond.
“They are saying that the Governor was trying to persuade them to grant parole,” said Reeves, “it was the other way around, they were trying to persuade him not to grant clemency.”
At the time Mr. Reeves served as chief counsel to the Governor and attended the October meeting with Governor Huckabee in his official capacity.
Mr. Reeves asserts categorically that parole for DuMond was “never mentioned” during the meeting. (“I told this guy [Waas], that’s not why we had that meeting.”) The quotes attributed to Reeves in The Huffington Post article, authored by Murray Waas, all relate to a conversation which was about Governor Huckabee’s stated intention to grant DuMond clemency.
This is a very simple distinction that Waas fails to make. The context of the discussion that occurred – and Governor Huckabee has not denied that a discussion occurred – was the question of whether or not Governor Huckabee would grant clemency, not whether or not the Board would grant parole. The Board’s decision had already been made and their recommendation was already on the Governor’s desk.
In the midst of a general discussion about the Governor’s general philosophy related to clemency, one of the Board members asked the Governor about the DuMond case and his intention to grant clemency (which was public knowledge due to the notice of intent.)
The Governor responded by stating that he believed the facts warranted his decision to initiate a notice of intent. As has been reported, he added that he believed DuMond had gotten a bad deal from the justice system. (This goes to the stated purpose of the meeting which was for the Governor to communicate to the Board his clemency philosophy.) Note that this does parallel the quotes attributed to Reeves by Waas in the Huffington Post:
“But, according to Reeves, Huckabee actually told the parole board members that the prison sentence meted out to Dumond for his rape conviction was “outlandish” and “way out of bounds for his crime.”
Again, the Governor made these comments to explain his position on the clemency request, not to persuade the Board to grant parole. The Board had already decided against parole. “Parole was not an issue; it didn’t come up,” said Reeves.
In response to the Governor’s explanation of why he intended to grant DuMond clemency, Chastain then stated why he was against it. The Governor, according to Reeves replied, “Well, okay, it’s a difference of opinion.” And the discussion ended.
The Huffington Post article asserts that the Reeves account contradicts the Governor’s version when, in fact, everything Mr. Reeves describes corroborates Governor Huckabee’s statement on the issue, as quoted by Waas:
“This stands in stark contrast to Huckabee’s assertion, repeated at a press conference today that he “did not ask [the board] to do anything.” When asked directly about trying to influence the board, Huckabee responded: “No. I did not. Let me categorically say that I did not.”
“He never mentioned parole at that meeting,” says Mr. Reeves. “The Governor was talking about clemency.”
On January 16, 1997 the Board took up a reconsideration of DuMond’s parole request and voted to grant parole with the stipulation that DuMond be paroled out of state.
The vote was as follows:
4 members voted yes. LeRoy Brownlee, Chairman; Fred Allen, Jr.; Ermer Poindexter; Railey Steele;
1 voted no. Dr. Charles Chastain.
There were 2 abstentions. Deborah Suttler and August Pieroni.
That same afternoon the Governor denied the clemency request. He sent a letter to DuMond that has been widely reported saying, (excerpted):
“Dear Wayne, I have reviewed your applications for executive clemency, specifically a commutation and/or pardon. … My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel now that parole is the best way for your reintegration into society. … Therefore, after careful consideration … I have denied your applications.”
The Governor’s approach to the DuMond case has been consistent. As he expressed in the letter, he did believe that DuMond should be released from prison. However, he denied clemency/pardon FOUR TIMES. Even after the Board granted parole with the out-of-state stipulation, Governor Huckabee denied two subsequent clemency requests. DuMond could not find a state which would take him, so he remained in prison for TWO MORE YEARS. It was during this time that the Governor continued to deny him clemency.
If the Governor was actively seeking to release DuMond, he could have easily done so by granting him clemency. He did not do so.
Finally, September 16, 1999 the Board, during a regular progress report on DuMond, dropped the out-of state condition for parole. The Governor took no action to promote this decision and did not know it was coming.
In October of that year, DuMond was released.