Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee pardoned a man wanted for the shooting of four police officers in Washington state Sunday morning.
Huckabee (R), whom some think may seek the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, granted clemency to 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons nine years ago. Clemmons is sought for questioning after the shooting in Lakewood, Wash., a suburb of Tacoma.
In a statement released on Sunday night, Huckabee called the incident "a horrible and tragic event."
If authorities find Clemmons to be responsible for the shootings, "it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state," the ex-governor stated, adding that Clemmons's release was also approved by the Arkansas parole board.
Crime previously played a major role in presidential politics during the 1988 campaign, when then-Republican nominee George H.W. Bush launched a series of ads attacking Massachusetts governor and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis's decision to release Willie Horton on a weekend furlough program.
Horton was released on the program despite facing a life sentence for murder. He never returned and later raped a woman and assaulted her fiance, and some commentators are already drawing parallels between Horton and Clemmons.
Clemmons faces serious charges in Washington state. He spent several months in a county prison on pending charges of child rape before being released on bond six days before the shooting. Clemmons was released despite facing seven other felony charges in Washington. Clemmons also had five felony convictions in Arkansas.
In 1990, a then-18-year-old Clemmons was convicted of burglary and theft of property and sentenced to 60 years in prison. The teenage Clemmons was already serving 48 years of time on five felony convictions from earlier offenses. He was released 11 years into his burglary sentence. Clemmons began the clemency process by requesting "executive clemency by pardon."
Clemmons went through conventional legal channels to seek the clemency, which was eventually granted by Huckabee. The Arkansas parole board then released him on parole, a move opposed by state prosecutors at the time.
On Sunday morning before releasing the statement, Huckabee said it's "less likely than more likely" he will seek the nomination in 2012, despite his being a popular candidate in the polls.
Huckabee said he enjoys his job as a Fox News host and wants to judge the political climate as 2012 approaches.
This story was updated at 5:52 p.m.