Playing the Maurice Clemmons Blame Game

Huckabee is one of several targets for finger-pointing.
Mike Huckabee has thus far been on the receiving end of most of the blame for the premature release of Maurice Clemmons, the now-dead suspect in the Sunday murders of four Lakewood police officers. This makes sense.

Huckabee is a national figure. As a possible 2012 Presidential candidate there's a lot of horse-race interest in how his commutation of Clemmons' sentence back in 2000 will effect his political future. And in his few public comments on the decision, including yesterday's soft-grilling from fellow Fox News'er Bill O'Reilly, he's shown a politician's gift for hairsplitting and deflecting blame for a decision that, ultimately, was his own.

But Huckabee isn't the only one coming under fire.

Thanks to a remarkable bit of ensemble reporting from the Seattle Times, we now have a greater sense of how Clemmons' life spiraled downhill during a four-day period in May. Along with an expanded list of the parties that could be considered partially responsible for the tragedy that left four cops dead.

Pierce County: Despite terrorizing his neighbors and punching a Sheriff's deputy in the face, Clemmons only spent one night in jail on assault charges thanks to a quirk in Pierce County's bail set-up.

Pierce uses a system called "booking bail" which allows people to post bond without ever seeing a judge so long as it's a weekend or holiday. Clemmons was arrested on a Saturday. The next morning, Mother's Day, he made his $40,000 bail.

Had Pierce County used a more standard system, one that took into account Clemmons' prior convictions in Arkansas, chances are he would never have been released so quickly.

Arkansas Department of Community Correction: By July, Clemmons had eight counts of assault hanging over him. Enough that Pierce County prosecutors determined he was in violation of his Arkansas parole. Had he been returned he would have faced years in jail.

But according to the Times, the Arkansas Department of Community Correction sent prosecutors a letter saying they wanted nothing to do with Clemmons. A move which Pierce County's chief prosecutor told the Times was tantamount to dumping Clemmons on the state of Washington.

A spokesperson for Arkansas' prison system later told a paper in the state that a second warrant was issued in October that would have allowed for Clemmons to be held without bail. Pierce County, however, says they never received it.

The Two Judges: Two Pierce County judges, John McCarthy and Thomas Felnagle, were responsible for setting Clemmons' bail for two separate charges. Prosecutors say they wanted a total of $300,000. What they got instead was $190,000.

That number got whittled down by Jail Sucks Bail Bonds in Chehalis to $15,000. An amount Clemmons was able to cover after putting his home up for collateral and getting a loan from a friend.

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