Why was suspected police killer released from jail?

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by SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 30, 2009 at 6:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 1 at 7:08 AM

TACOMA, Wash.  - Maurice Clemmons, the suspect in the murders of four Lakewood police officers, is a career criminal, and many wonder why he was on the streets in the first place. His life sentence was commuted in Arkansas, even though he'd been convicted for robbery, assault and theft and other felonies.

He moved back to Washington and was recently charged with assaulting an officer and raping a child.

How could Clemmons freed despite a rap sheet that dates back 20 years?

One of the people Clemmons victimized was stunned to learn he was free.

"I was just shocked that the process would let him out on the street after his background and his past," she said.

The woman and two of her relatives were victims of Clemmons in May. He threw bricks at their car windows as they drove past his home. He also asked them if they had Jesus in their hearts.

"He just looked at me and threw it at my car as I went by and busted out my back window," said the woman, who said it was unprovoked.

"I was scared to death because I was shocked that somebody would do that," she said.

Those crimes landed Clemmons in the Pierce County Jail. eight felony charges in all, including assaulting two sheriff's deputies who responded to that brick throwing scene.

Clemmons got out of jail right away, posting $40,000 bail. But those charges caught the attention of police all the way in Arkansas. They issued what's called a "no bail warrant." Clemmons had violated his parole with the crimes in May. Pierce County, they said, should arrest him with no bail allowed.

"As long as that no bail hold is in place he's not getting out of the Pierce County Jail," said Pierce Co. Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.

Clemmons was arrested on that warrant and then charged with another crime that came to light – rape of a 12-year-old relative.
Prosecutors asked for $300,000 bail total just to make sure he stayed in jail in case the no bail hold from Arkansas went away.

"We've reviewed the actions that our deputy prosecutors took in the course of this and we feel we were there each step of the way, advocating for the appropriate amount of bail and trying to keep this defendant in custody and off the streets," said Lindquist.

But then things went wrong. Arkansas mysteriously revoked their warrant, saying they were releasing their hold on Clemmons. And then surprisingly, four months after going to jail, a bail bonds company in Chehalis called "Jail Sucks" came up with the money to get Clemmons out of jail.

On Monday, the Fallen Officers Guild president was outraged that it happened.

"We've got to hold these people accountable. We've got to keep them locked up. And if they want to rehabilitate them you can rehabilitate them but you rehabilitate them in prison, where they're supposed to be," said Brian Wurts. "This guy should have never been on the street."

The Pierce County Prosecutor says Clemmons should have stayed in jail and that they did everything they could on their end. The Superior Court Judge in the case did reduce the bail slightly and Clemmons was able to make it. But he said there are two problems: No. 1, Arkansas never should have commuted that life sentence many years ago. And No. 2, the revocation of the no bail warrant.

When asked why Arkansas would revoke that warrant, Lindquist said they still doesn't know why. He said they even called in July and asked if they were sure about it. He said the only thing he can think of is that they didn't want to deal with Clemmons any more.

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