TACOMA—"This guy should have never been out on the street," said Officer Brian Wurts at a press conference this morning in Lakewood, choking back his emotions.
It's finger-pointing time as to why a career criminal got out over and over again.
"I don't understand why the governor commuted his sentence," begins Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, talking about Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
He says Huckabee made the first critical mistake. Clemmons, sentenced to 95 years for armed robbery and other charges served only 11, because Huckabee reduced his sentence in 2000. Huckabee now says the parole board advised him do it, because Clemmons was only 16 when he committed the crimes.
"They recommended to me as governor for his commutation, which didn't release him, it simply cut his sentence to 47 years," said Huckabee on Fox's Bill O'Reilly Show on Monday. "That would give him parole eligibility. That was the commutation, I am responsible for that, and it's not something I'm happy about."
"He was made parole eligible over our strenuous objections," retorted Arkansas Prosecutor Larry Jegley." Clemmons was turned back out on the streets and here we are. I think the clemency power was overused by our former governor. And I think this is a bitter harvest we're reaping because of it."
Only months after his release, Clemmons was back at it - committing crimes in Arkansas and then Washington. Lindquist says Clemmons didn't hit his radar until May when he was charged with punching a deputy and raping a 12 year old child.
Clemmons paid a bail bonds company called "Jail Sucks Bail Bonds" $15,000. That's less than 10% of his bail, then they paid the rest. It's a common practice that has prosecutors frustrated.
"Why wouldn't people just have to pay 190,000 dollars?" says Lindquist. "Those issues are absolutely worth examining."
Lindquist says at the time of his arrest here in Washington, Clemmons was still on parole in Arkansas and under something called a "no bail" condition - which should have kept him behind bars. But for reasons Lindquist says he can't explain, the Arkansas Parole Board revoked that condition in July. Clemmons paid up and got out.
"It's not something we can control in the prosecutor's office," says Lindquist, "but I imagine we will be looking at it as result of this case."
Lindquist expects to talk with prosecutors and the parole board in Arkansas later this week, but whatever answers he gets won't fix what's happened.
"The chief knows I'm not very politically correct," said Officer Wurts, his voice cracking, "but I can only hold that to a point. I can't believe he was out on the street, if this is what is true, I think this country needs to get together and figure out why these people are out. Our elected officials need to find out why these people are out."