On Sunday night my partner and I were sitting on our couch as a police helicopter hovered overhead. We paused our movie to poke our heads outside and to check local blogs. The neighborhood rumor was that Seattle Police Swat teams were closing in on Maurice Clemmons, the person of interest in connection with the executions of 4 police officers in a Lakewood, WA, coffee shop Sunday morning.
Clemmons was not at that location, nor was he at a number of other locations that rumors, blogs, and news tips suggested he was throughout Monday. He is still at large as I write this post Monday evening. It is always a bizarre feeling knowing there is a killer making his way through your city and your neighborhood. Every maneuver feels like an act of survival. Should I go to the grocery store? Should I keep my drapes open at night? Should my partner walk three blocks home from work, or should I pick him up in the car? Will I even make it to the car alive from my front door? It is a paranoid thought process, I know, but an imagination like mine never lets me rest.
I am a firm believer in our Constitution. Criminals are innocent until proven guilty. Everyone deserves a fair trial -- even the worst among us. As Clemmons continues to evade authorities with the help of his family, his innocence is in serious doubt though.
As Clemmons slithers from parks, to houses, to city buses, another escape maneuver is unfolding.
About 10 years ago former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee commuted a 95 year sentence against Clemmons allowing him to become eligible for parole. If Huckabee had not done this, Clemmons would have been in prison and not fleeing from police for the homicide of four police officers. Potentially, the entire western Washington corridor would not feel like carrying a corkscrew with them when they leave the house. (It is the closest thing to a weapon I own.)
Yesterday Huckabee released a statement placing blame on everyone but himself. He blamed authorities in Arkansas and in Washington, but scarcely mentioned his roll in the alleged killer's freedom.
Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington State. He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990, this commutation made him parole eligible and he was then paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time. He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term, but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him. It appears that he has continued to have a string of criminal and psychotic behavior but was not kept incarcerated by either state. This is a horrible and tragic event and if found and convicted the offender should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Our thoughts and prayers are and should be with the families of those honorable, brave, and heroic police officers.
Bloggers and the news media have been more forthright with the public. As of early yesterday afternoon the Seattle Times, the Stranger, the Seattle PI, and the national media picked up on the Huckabee connection. By today it was clear that Huckabee made a serious error in judgment when he commuted the sentence of a violent and highly disturbed individual who has a history of thinking he is the former President, and, currently, Jesus Christ himself.
If Huckabee were a liberal and a Democrat, he would be a punching bag for right wing blowhards an example of clueless, soft-on-crime politicians at their worst. Fox News would be stalking him, as they have others responsible for letting criminals out early.
Instead, he's been allowed to get away with issuing a passive, blame-shifting statement. ...
Huckabee says this "horrible and tragic event" should not be politicized. But it is his party that has honed such attacks into a dark art.
Despite overwhelming evidence that Huckabee failed, tonight Bill O'Reilly gave Mike Huckabee a pass:
And now to the statement that made me throw up in my mouth. Bill O'Reilly said:
"It's not your fault, Governor... I'm not saying it's your fault. I don't think anybody watching thinks it's your fault."
Everybody watching thinks it is Huckabee's fault. He at least had a roll in it. If Huckabee had not commuted Clemmon's sentence four officers would still be alive and the city that I love so much could sleep soundly. Huckabee tried to place blame on his staff for the commutation, but as the Huffington Post pointed out, ABC News reported in 2007 that Huckabee was forgiving towards criminals that had a deep faith in Jesus:
"None of the prosecutors were ever told why Huckabee felt compelled to have a hand in freeing so many prisoners, though all of them speculate that his deeply religious nature led to a strong belief in repentance and forgiveness. In some cases, prosecutors say, evangelical leaders attested that a prisoner had found Jesus and that seemed to influence the governor's thoughts."
Clemmons belief in Jesus is so strong that he reportedly believed President Obama was on his way to Washington to confirm that Clemmons was the second coming of the Messiah. As Jesus, Clemmons instructed his family members that they should be naked together for at least 5 minutes every Sunday. Clemmons is charged with raping a 12 year old member of his family.
Of coarse this is not the kind of reasoning he gave Huckabee. According to The Seattle Times Clemmons wrote to Huckabee:
"I succumbed to the peer pressure and the need I had to be accepted by other youth in my new environment and fell in with the wrong crowd and thus began a seven (7) month crime spree which led me to prison," Clemmons wrote in his application to Huckabee.
Clemmons wrote that he came from "a very good Christian family" and "was raised much better than my actions speak (I'm still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought to my family name.)"
"Where once stood a young (16) year old misguided fool, who's (sic) own life he was unable to rule. Now stands a 27 year old man, who has learned through 'the school of hard knocks' to appreciate and respect the rights of others. And who has in the midst of the harsh reality of prison life developed the necessary skills to stand along (sic) and not follow a multitude to do evil, as I did as a 16 year old child."
Clemmons added that his mother had recently died without seeing him turn his life around and that he prayed Huckabee would show compassion by releasing him.
Clemmons was clever. He hit all the keywords to trigger Huckabee's evangelical forgiveness: "Christian," "evil," "prayer," "compassion." He gave Huckabee the opportunity to inflate his own ego and to behave as he thought Jesus would. Consequently Huckabee turned an alleged murderer lose. Clemmons was freed 21 years before he should have been.
Clemmons is not the kind of individual that should ever be free to walk our streets. Whether he is permanently institutionalized in a mental hospital or in a prison, could be up to the courts to decide.... again. Sadly, if the Arkansas court's original sentence had not been commuted, the 12 year old would likely not have been raped, and 4 cops would be having coffee tomorrow morning together as they usually did.
Instead four police officers are dead. A 12 year old will forever be traumatized. And I will be leaving my apartment in a few minutes to pick up my partner from work, corkscrew in hand, as a potential murderer and child rapist could be lurking around any corner thanks to Mike Huckabee.