SEATTLE - KING 5 News has learned that the crime that sent Maurice Clemmons to prison in Arkansas, supposedly for life, was also committed against a police officer.
The victim of that crime was an Arkansas state trooper, Keith Eremea, whose Little Rock home was burglarized in 1989 and his gun and other property were stolen. Eremea found calls to Des Moines, Wash. on the bill from his stolen cell phone, leading investigators to Clemmons, then a teenager.
"Maurice Clemmons had no business being on the streets,” says Arkansas prosecutor Larry Jegley. “He needs to be in the department of corrections until he was parole eligible in 2021. But instead of that, he's been out committing crimes in society."
In back-to-back trials at Little Rock's courthouse, Clemmons stood before two juries for robberies, assaults and thefts and was convicted at age 17 and sent to prison.
“He was supposed to do 108 years,” says Jegley. “That's what the consciousness of our community decided he needed to do."
After serving just ten years, Clemmons appealed to Arkansas' Baptist minister governor, admitting that he'd never done anything good for God, but that prison had made him ready for a brand new start and that he was no longer a "young 16-year-old misguided fool."
Clemmons told the governor he had no criminal record when he moved from Seattle at age 16 to a new home in Arkansas and fell in with the wrong crowd.
In May of 2000, Gov. Mike Huckabee signed this proclamation absolving Clemmons of what would have been a life sentence.
“It's shocking. Anywhere where four police are ambushed is beyond belief and the fact this guy should have still be in jail is even more beyond belief to me,” said Karen Hodge of Little Rock, a woman Clemmons beat and robbed.
In a statement, former Gov, Huckabee blamed failures by the criminal justice systems in Washington and Arkansas for Clemmons' ongoing troubles with the law.
For a politician considering another run for the White House, Clemmons could become Huckabee's Willie Horton.
"In a primary between a law-and-order Republican and him, I think it could definitely be a vulnerability," said Art English, a political scientist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. "It is very damaging when you have someone like that whose sentence was commuted. That's pretty high profile and very devastating and very tragic."
English said it's hard to avoid comparing the case to Horton, a convicted killer who raped a woman and assaulted her fiance while on release as part of a prison furlough program supported by Michael Dukakis when he was governor of Massachusetts.
Allies of former President George H.W. Bush ran ads criticizing Dukakis for his support of the program, undermining the Democrat's presidential campaign.
As recently as Sunday, hours before the shooting suspect was linked to him, Huckabee said he was leaning against running again for president, telling "Fox News Sunday" he was "less likely rather than more likely" to run.
On Monday, Huckabee said he takes responsibility for making Clemmons eligible for parole in 2000, and called the case a failure of the justice systems in Arkansas and Washington. Huckabee cited the length of Clemmons' sentence -- 108 years -- and a state judge's recommendation that it be reduced as factors in his decision.
"If I could have known nine years ago that this guy was capable of something of this magnitude, obviously I would have never granted a commutation. It's sickening," Huckabee said on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor."