Documents released this morning by the Arkansas Parole Board show police slaying suspect Maurice Clemmons was supposed to remain in prison there until at least 2015, but won his release by claiming he’d changed while behind bars.
Clemmons’ appeal for clemency was granted in May 2000 by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee, who commuted Clemmons sentence and made him immediately eligible for parole.
Clemmons wrote in an appeal to Huckabee that he’d been sent to prison after an extended crime spree that started in 1989 when he was a teenager — and that he was a different person now.
At the time of the crimes — which included aggravated robbery, firearms possession and burglary — Clemmons claimed he was 16 years old and had moved from Seattle to a high-crime neighborhood in Arkansas.
“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 said 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.),” he wrote.
“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 of 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.
The documents indicate Clemmons’ release from prison was supported by Arkansas Judge Marion Humphrey, who cited Clemmons’ age at the time of his crimes and called his sentence excessive. His release was unanimously approved by the parole board.
Huckabee also cited Clemmons’ young age at the time of his crimes in an official proclamation commuting Clemmons’ sentence. The proclamation said Clemmons faced a 95-year sentence but corrections officials in that state said he likely would have served far less than that.
Clemmons was released from prison in August 2000, said Dina Tyler, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
He was sent back to prison on a parole violation — a robbery charge — in July 2001, according to Tyler.
He received a 10-year sentence, Tyler said, but records show he was paroled in March 2004. He was to remain on parole until 2021.
Clemmons moved to Washington state while still on parole. He spent the past several months in jail on a child-rape charge but was released last week after posting a $15,000 bond. His release here came despite seven other pending felony charges, according to court records.
Huckabee, a Republican presidential contender in 2008, issued a statement Sunday night mourning the deaths of the four Lakewood police officers and suggesting that if Clemmons is responsible “it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state.”
Huckabee’s statement noted that Clemmons’ release was approved by the parole board and that prosecutors in Arkansas failed to file additional charges against Clemmons after his parole violation in 2001, which could have extended his time in prison.