Friday, November 14, 2014

TOP STORY >> Pardons by Beebe not as bad as Huck’s

Leader editor-in-chief

Gov. Mike Beebe has had a good record on pardons until this week, much better than Gov. Mike Huckabee, his predecessor.

Beebe, a smart governor and lawyer, avoided pardoning the worst criminals during his two terms. He pardoned petty criminals for writing hot checks and for not paying fines, but never the serious crimes that Huckabee became famous for until the legislature told him to stop.

Beebe thought he could leave office without causing too much stir, considering what his predecessor was getting away with for years.

But now Beebe’s under fire for pardoning his son, Kyle, for drug possession and a convicted sex offender named Michael E. Jackson, both from Searcy, Beebe’s hometown.

Jackson was charged with stalking a 14-year-old on the Internet after a police sting. The child was actually a police officer. Jackson served his sentence, but the pardon is on hold because of new accusations against him in a child-custody case.

Sex offenders like Jackson don’t deserve a break, even if he was just stalking a cop. He served a four-month sentence in 2008. Kyle Beebe received three years of probation in 2003.

You can understand why Beebe would pardon his own son — after all, marijuana is now legal in four states and Washington, D.C. — although the governor has been deservedly criticized for not pardoning other petty drug offenders.

Neither pardon is as bad as Huckabee paroling rapist Wayne DuMond and granting clemency to Maurice Clemmons, who, between them, killed six people after Huckabee turned them loose.

Unlike Huckabee, Beebe didn’t pardon violent criminals. Huckabee pardoned killers, rapists, armed robbers and other thugs just about every year he was in office.

He set a record over 12 years: More than 1,100 pardons and clemencies — more than all of Huck’s predecessors combined, going back to the Faubus years.

A mostly friendly media in Little Rock ignored Huckabee’s pardons and clemencies. Huck-abee’s much-criticized record on pardons could affect his decision on whether he runs for president in 2016, although he hasn’t always shied away from running before.

Let’s recap: Dumond was released from prison in 1999 at Huckabee’s urging. Dumond, who moved to Missouri a few weeks later, raped and killed two women. He died in a Missouri prison in 2005.

Clemmons received lengthy sentences for a series of holdups and thefts in the 1990s. His sentence was commuted in May 2000, and he was released three months later.

In March 2001, Clemmons committed two armed robberies and other crimes and was sentenced to 10 years. He was paroled in March 2003 but was soon wanted for aggravated robbery.

In 2008, Clemmons killed four law-enforcement officers near Tacoma, Wash., and then shot himself before police could arrest him.

In 2004, we reported that Huckabee planned to pardon a murderer named Glen Martin Green, who had beaten a teenager to death 20 years before.

Green, an Air Force sergeant, had kidnapped Helen Lynette Spencer, 18, of Gravel Ridge while she was visiting a friend at Little Rock Air Force Base. Green beat her to death with martial-arts sticks, ran over her body and dumped her into Twin Prairie Bayou in Lonoke County.

Huckabee usually ignored us when we advised him not to free murderers and rapists, such as Clemmons and Dumond. But Huckabee withdrew his pardon for Green after the outcry that followed our revelations.

Green was in the news again in September, when we reported that he was installing gym equipment at Cabot Junior High North as part of a prison work-release program.

Soon after our report, the Department of Correction announced it would no longer send convicted killers to schools. The Cabot School District has stopped buying equipment from Arkansas Correctional Industries.

Frank Gilbert, the Libertarian candidate for governor this year, said Beebe’s pardoning his son was “a cynical misuse of gubernatorial power.

“If the governor had pardoned all nonviolent drug offenders, it could have been a principled act,” Gilbert said. “But to use it for his son while ignoring others in similar situations is a sad way for the governor to end his term.”

Gilbert campaigned on a platform that called for pardoning all nonviolent drug offenders. He said Arkansas “could save hundreds of millions of dollars, reunite thousands of families and return productive workers to the economy.

“Compounding this cynical misuse of gubernatorial power is his effort to obscure the facts by having his press aide point out that he had pardoned over 700 persons in his term,” Gilbert continued. “That is a tiny fraction of the Arkansans who should have received the same treatment as the governor’s son.”

The state would open up thousands of prison beds if it adopted Gilbert’s plan. But we reminded Gilbert that Beebe’s pardoning his son isn’t nearly as bad as Huckabee pardoning Clemmons and DuMond.

“You are right,” Gilbert responded. “The lad is unlikely to kill anyone!”