Oops! Huckabee commuted sentence of man tied to police slayings 29 Nov 2009 The man whom police are seeking as a "person of interest" in the slaying of four police officers was released from an Arkansas prison nine years ago after a controversial decision by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) to commute his sentence. Maurice Clemmons was identified late Sunday by the Pierce County Sheriff's Office as a man sought for questioning. Clemmons has pending charges in Pierce County Superior Court for second-degree child rape and third-degree assault for an attack on a police officer. He was released from custody in those cases after posting a $150,000 bond, according to the Lakewood Police Department. Long before coming to Washington, Clemmons was serving a 35-year prison term in Arkansas for armed robbery but his sentence was commuted by then-Gov. Huckabee, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in his 2008 presidential bid, according to the Arkansas Times Web site.
Huckabee commuted sentence of man tied to police slayings
By SCOTT GUTIERREZ, MICHELLE NICOLOSI and ERIC NALDER
The man whom police are seeking as a "person of interest" in the slaying of four police officers was released from an Arkansas prison nine years ago after a controversial decision by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee to commute his sentence.
Maurice Clemmons, 37, was identified late Sunday by the Pierce County Sheriff's Office as a man sought for questioning . Clemmons has pending charges in Pierce County Superior Court for second-degree child rape and third-degree assault for an attack on a police officer. He was released from custody in those cases after posting a $150,000 bond, according to the Lakewood Police Department.
Long before coming to Washington, Clemmons was serving a 35-year prison term in Arkansas for armed robbery but his sentence was commuted by then-Gov. Huckabee, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in his 2008 presidential bid, according to the Arkansas Times Web site.
After his release, he committed two armed robberies and other crimes and was sentenced to 10 years, but was later paroled, according to this column in the Arkansas Leader.
You can see more from Clemmons' criminal case in Arkansas here.
Huckabee, who was Arkansas governor for more than eight years beginning in 1996, granted sentence reductions to more than 111 people during his time in office. In commuting Clemmons' sentence Huckabee cited the fact that Clemmons was a teen-ager when he committed his crimes. Seattlepi.com left a message for Huckabee Sunday evening. A person answering his phone said he was recording his radio program. In additioning to hosting a radio show, Huckabee has a talk show on Fox News.
'You have broken your mother's heart'
In 1990, the then 18-year-old Clemmons was sentenced as a habitual criminal to 60 years in prison for burglary and theft of property.
Just before he was sentenced Clemmons reportedly took a padlock off his holding cell and tried to throw it a court bailiff, but accidentally struck his mother, who had come to bring him street clothes.
"You have broken your mother's heart," Circuit Court Judge Floyd Lofton said as he handed down the prison term, according to coverage in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
" I have broken my own heart," Clemmons responded, according to the coverage of his sentencing.
Clemmons was found guilty of breaking into the home of a state trooper and taking more than $6,000 in valuables, including the trooper's gun.
In May of 1989, Clemmons was arrested for allegedly carrying a weapon on a Little Rock, Ark., high school campus. Clemmons, then 17, reportedly told officers he brought a .25-caliber pistol to school because he had "been chased and beaten by 'dopers,' " and if they got after him again he "had something for them."
Described as 'nice', 'generous'
Pierce County neighbors of Clemmons described him as friendly and a hard worker. He "was always very decent, very nice, very generous," said across the street neighbor Kerstin Horning, 44. "He was always friendly and hard-working," working at both a pressure washing and a landscaping business, she said.
Horning celebrated July 4 at a party at Clemmons' house a few years ago. And when her son recently had a birthday, Clemmons gave him a card with some money in it as a gift.
Another neighbor said Clemmons' house was known for their "fantastic" holiday light displays.
But then one day in May Clemmons was out on his driveway with some employees, "yelling at them, ranting, raving in their driveway," Horning said.
She said during that incident, car windows were broken on her car and on cars in Clemmons' driveway, and also on some homes in the neighborhood. The police came and took him away, another neighbor said.
"In May when he went wacko, as I would probably describe it, and this all came out, it was kind of shocking, surprising," Horning said. "Up until then he was very normal."
A man believed to be Clemmons and a woman walked up to his south Tacoma home around 12:30 p.m. Sunday, said Sheila Gerlach, who lives across the street.
News helicopters covering the shooting, which had occurred hours earlier, were hovering nearby.
"They were both looking off to the left. I figure they were looking at the helicopters," Gerlach said.
Gerlach was aware of the shooting on Sunday morning and had heard the description of the suspect. The first description she heard didn't match Clemmons, but the second one did. Gerlach said Clemmons and his sister first moved in to the house across the street from her on S. Asotin Street last year, but she hadn't seen him since May or June.
Clemmons caught her attention when he walked up the stairs with his sister, since she hadn't seen him for months.
"He was wearing grey sweats and he was wearing a grey hooded top, with black lining. Maybe he had it inside out," she said
Noting also that a white truck may have been identified, she recalled a white truck being at the house previously. However, she didn't see any vehicle when the man and woman arrived at their house around noon.
"They weren't in any rush to go in," Gerlach said. "She wasn't like jumbling to find keys in her purse."
Suspicious anyway, Gerlach looked up Clemmons on her home computer and discovered he had a criminal record.
"My gut feeling was something wasn't right," she said.
She then watched their home, waiting for them to come out again, preparing to take a photograph that she would show to police. Not long after that, police arrived in their neighborhood and blocked it off. Gerlach didn't ever seen Clemmons or his the woman leave.
Horning said her's is a cul-de-sac neighborhood full of people who have been in their houses for decades. Clemmons is a more recent arrival who was friendly with neighbors, but didn't have any close friends in the neighborhood.
She said she rarely talked to him or spent time with him other than the July 4 party.
Another nearby neighbor who asked not to be named said he didn't know Clemmons well either, but that he seemed a nice enough guy.
"He seemed like an OK person, but how do you know?" he said. He and Horning said no one in the neighborhood knew anything about Clemmons extensive criminal history in Washington and Arkansas.
"I guess it just kind of boils down to you just don't know people," the neighbor said.
Scott Gutierrez can be reached at 206-448-8334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.