December 5, 2007

Blame To Go Around On Wayne Dumond

Mike Huckabee has found out what it feels like to bark with the big dogs. No sooner had he joined the first tier of Republican presidential candidates than the issue of Wayne Dumond's parole arose. Huckabee worked to get Dumond out of prison in Arkansas for a rape conviction -- and Dumond raped and murdered Carol Sue Shields and Sara Andrasek. While Huckabee has to answer for his role in pushing for Dumond's release, he isn't alone -- and some on the Right need to explain themselves as well.

Murray Waas notes that Huckabee hasn't exactly modeled openness in his response, either:

Huckabee has refused to release his gubernatorial administration's records on the matter, saying that he was concerned for the privacy of Dumond's victims and that the records contain sensitive law enforcement information.

The Arkansas Parole Board also refuses to make public any letters or warnings it received from Drumond's victims. "We don't release comments for or against a clemency application or a parole case," the Board's spokesperson told Huffington Post, "except when they are comments from public officials."

But most of the women assaulted by Dumond and interviewed for this story say that Huckabee could have made information public while guarding their privacy. Law enforcement authorities also scoffed at the idea that anything in the records would have harmed an ongoing investigation since Dumond is no longer alive .

The records revealed in this story -- including correspondence between Dumond's victims and Huckabee, as well as the governor's own file regarding Dumond -- were provided to me in the fall of 2002 by a Republican staffer to then-Gov. Huckabee.

Huckabee needs to show openness and remorse for a very bad decision, and he has to do it immediately. He should release as much as possible as soon as possible, and tell the American electorate how devastating the results have been to him -- and undoubtedly, that would be the truth. If anything, the incident shows that Huckabee had too much compassion for a dangerous man, not a reckless disregard for public safety ... and took advice from the wrong people.

Let's recall who Dumond is. He got a life sentence for raping Ashley Stevens, 17 at the time. Stevens had distant familial relations with Bill Clinton, which tripped the conspiracy meter with Clinton Derangement Syndrome sufferers when Clinton won the presidency. Dumond became a minor cause celebre among Clinton-haters, who seemed sure that Dumond had been framed in a collusion between Clinton and the sheriff who handled the investigation.

Partisans took up the strange case, where Dumond claimed that he had been castrated by masked men while out on appeal -- and the sheriff had kept the testicles in a jar of formaldehyde in his office, not the most professional action for a law enforcement officer. Steve Dunleavy wrote columns about the case at the New York Post, claiming Dumond to be the victim of a frame and his conviction a "travesty of justice". Dunleavy called Dumond's incarceration the "biggest crime" of Bill Clinton.

In this environment, egged on by partisans in Arkansas, Huckabee began to have "grave doubts" about the case. He announced that he would push for a parole hearing, only to get letters from other women alleging sexual attacks by Dumond. Huckabee disregarded these letters and listened to those urging clemency, not least for the castration (which Waas postulates could have been self-inflicted). The parole board, mostly Democrats, released Dumond in 1999. In two years, he murdered two women after raping them, despite his castration.

Huckabee told Byron York that he hated what happened "like crazy", and it's one of the risks of clemency actions in any case. No one wants to be the person who released a prisoner, only to have them harm someone else. It calls into question Huckabee's judgment, and it certainly reflects on his views of crime and punishment -- and perhaps his credulity, as well.

However, that also applies to all of the Clinton-haters who assumed Dumond had to have been a victim of a bizarre conspiracy. The fringe minority on the Right who passed along Dumond's case in e-mails as evidence of the Clinton capacity for mayhem may be among those who now castigate Huckabee for his naivete and poor judgment. It's a better reminder of what happens when people let their hatred get ahead of their reason and reject rational thought for conspiracy thinking. Sometimes, it has real-world consequences.


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