No More Arkansas Parolees In WA State ... For Now

By Brian Slodysko December 2, 2009

As a result of the slaying of four police officers in a Lakewood coffee shop by, police say, Arkansas parolee, Maurice Clemmons,  future parolees from that state will not be allowed in Washington.

For now, at least .

Today Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire instructed the state Secretary of Corrections, Eldon Vail, to turn away all parolees from Arkansas. Normally, Washington accepts thousands of former cons released on parole through a mutual interstate agreement amongst state's to keeps tabs on each others' convicts .

But that changed today, at least for Arkansas, stemming from their failure to issue a warrant for Clemmons following his arrests for sexual assault and punching a Pierce County sheriff's deputy.

Though Arkansas officials initially issued a warrant for Clemmons, it was later quashed. Later, Arkansas issued a second warrant which Washington authorities say did not give them reason to keep Clemmons incarcerated.

Shorty after his release Clemmons killed the police officers. He was later killed by a police officer in Seattle.

Under the interstate agreement, it remains unclear if Gregoire has the authority to ban Arkansas parolees from coming here, a concern she acknowledged. But she said the threat to public safety posed by the actions of Arkansas officials -- whom she said haven't "acted responsibly thus far" -- overrode concerns she had about executive authority, at least until the issue is resolved.   

"Not only did they not issue the warrant properly, but they...quashed a warrant improperly," Gregoire said. "When [Clemmons] started acting out, the secretary and his team made it clear to me that their position was either he goes back to Arkansas or he stays in jail. That's why the improper filing of this warrant, such that he was able to post bail , is very troubling."


According to the governor, Arkansas authorities continue to dodge questions about what happened with the warrants. Gregoire said she placed a call to the state's Democratic Governor, Mike Bebe, but has not heard back. Similarly, state corrections chief, Vail, has not heard back from Arkansas authorities that he has tried to contact regarding the situation.

Vail called the fiasco unprecedented on the part of Arkansas.

"We've worked this compact for decades and we certainly get into squabbles or disagreements with different parties, but we solve them," Vail says. "This has never happened before. I've never run into anything like this before."

Clemmons became eligible for parole in Arkansas after then-Governor Mike Huckabee granted him clemency in 2000. Since then, the former governor and GOP presidential hopeful has distanced himself from the matter and even joined T.V. host Bill O'Reilly in bashing two judges who signed off on Clemmons' release.

Gregoire called Huckabee's post-shooting comments and scramble from liability "regrettable."

For all the blame being dumped on Arkansas officials, questions still remain whether Washington state authorities did all they could to keep tabs on Clemmons after his release. According to Vail, Department of Corrections procedure required Clemmons to make contact with a DOC supervisory officer within 24 hours of his release, which he failed to do. The DOC supervisor assigned to his case then had 72 hours to track him down or file a warrant. That did not happen, Vail said, in part because of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Gregoire declined to comment on the matter further after being prodded with questions by public radio's Austin Jenkins during a media availability today.

"We're not here today to do a thorough investigation with the press," she said. "We're here today not to blame."

Of course, blaming is exactly what she appeared before the press to do today. And she's trying to place that blame squarely on the state of Arkansas.

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