A convicted felon from Arkansas moves to Washington, violates the conditions of his parole and vanishes.
The story sounds familiar, except for one thing: The felon is not cop-killer Maurice Clemmons.
He’s William T. Forbes, one of 14 Arkansas parolees Washington is required to supervise under the terms of an interstate agreement.
Forbes is a fugitive – the only wayward parolee in the Arkansas group. His whereabouts are unknown; last known address in Moses Lake. An active warrant, valid anywhere in the country, calls for his arrest.
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The Arkansas offenders, including Forbes, represent a sliver of the total; Washington supervises 2,393 out-of-state offenders, according to records from the state Department of Corrections.
It’s unclear how many of those offenders have violated the terms of their parole or absconded from supervision. The News Tribune recently requested a state-by-state breakdown from the Department of Corrections, with particular emphasis on Arkansas.
Agency officials provided records related to Arkansas offenders, but they said they could not provide compliance information on offenders from other states in time to meet News Tribune deadlines.
Gov. Chris Gregoire officially barred the door to further Arkansas parolees on Dec. 2, three days after Clemmons shot and killed four Lakewood police officers in a Parkland coffee shop, one day after a Seattle police officer shot Clemmons dead.
Announcing the ban, Gregoire cited procedural failures by corrections officials in Arkansas, where Clemmons was convicted of multiple crimes before moving to Washington in 2004.
Gregoire and Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe spoke Dec. 3 about the temporary suspension of the interstate agreement. To date, the ban remains in effect. It is unclear when normal relations will resume and under what conditions.
“I don’t know that anybody knows yet,” Chad Lewis, spokesman for the Washington Department of Corrections, said Friday. “Conversations continue at a very high level.”
The 14 Arkansas offenders, including Forbes, arrived in Washington before the Parkland shootings. Their presence predates the interstate quarrel. Gregoire’s ban applies only to future out-of-state entries.
TRADE DEFICIT OF OFFENDERS
The governor’s action highlights the complexities surrounding in-state supervision of out-of-state offenders, and the difficulties of navigating the web of parole and sentencing laws, which vary from state to state. While recent events underline the Arkansas connection, other states export far more parolees to Washington.
The biggest numbers come from neighbors. Oregon ranks first, with 816 offenders exported to Washington. Next comes Idaho, with 357, then Montana, with 218. California, with 182 offenders, is fourth. Collectively, those western states account for 66 percent of Washington’s imported offenders.
The numbers also reveal an apparent trade deficit. Washington’s exported offenders number 1,046 – less than half as many as the 2,393 the state received from elsewhere.
Corrections officials cite multiple reasons for the disparity.
“Offenders – like a lot of people across the country – are attracted to Washington’s quality of life,” said DOC spokeswoman Maria Peterson.
Other factors revolve around differences in state corrections law, officials say. Washington’s community supervision system differs from other states’, many of which use more traditional parole and probation systems. Some Washington offenders are from Washington originally, and have convictions here as well as elsewhere, Peterson said. She added that the interstate agreements governing offender supervision are not designed to create a 1-to-1 ratio among all states.
OFFENDER AT LARGE
Apart from Forbes, the other Arkansas offenders are in compliance with the terms of their supervision, according to DOC records. Most of those parolees are drug offenders. One has an Arkansas conviction for second-degree assault. Two more were convicted of passing bad checks.
Forbes, 48, was convicted of theft in Arkansas. It appears to be the only felony on his record. Available records do not provide a conviction date, but they show he was sentenced to 48 months of probation. Arkansas corrections officials did not respond to The News Tribune’s requests for comment on Forbes and other offenders.
Washington corrections officials lost contact with Forbes shortly before the Parkland shootings, said Lin Miller, community corrections program administrator. The arrest warrant was issued a few days after the shootings.
“Mr. Forbes was an absconder,” Miller said. “We didn’t know his whereabouts. Arkansas has issued a nationwide warrant for his arrest.”
The warrant effectively hands responsibility for Forbes to Arkansas. If arrested, he could be held in jail without bail, pending extradition.
ECHOES OF CLEMMONS
The circumstances resemble those involving Clemmons. He was also an Arkansas parolee, though his original convictions reflected a more violent history. He was convicted on multiple counts of theft and aggravated robbery, stemming from a series of 1990 incidents.
Ultimately, Clemmons was sentenced to 108 years in prison. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, following the recommendation of Arkansas parole officials, commuted Clemmons’ sentence in 2000. Clemmons immediately became eligible for parole. He arrived in Washington in 2004.
In May of this year, Clemmons was charged with multiple counts of third-degree assault and malicious mischief after he punched a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy in the face.
Clemmons bailed out of jail the next day, and failed to appear for his required arraignment on the charges. He was also under investigation for second-degree child rape, which led to a formal charge several weeks later.
The incidents prompted Arkansas to issue a warrant for Clemmons’ arrest. The warrant allowed Clemmons to be held in jail without bail. Arkansas withdrew it in July, allowing Clemmons to bail out of jail.
The decision sparked a heated back-and-forth between corrections officials in both states. Clemmons was arrested again, but bailed out again on Nov. 23, six days before he shot and killed the Lakewood officers.
There is no sign that Arkansas will withdraw the arrest warrant for Forbes, which remains active.
OLD FRIENDS FROM PRISON
Another link between Clemmons and Arkansas offenders goes beyond the reach of official authority. He made friends in prison, and kept in touch with them.
One was Gerard Bernard Wells, an Arkansas fugitive wanted by the FBI for trafficking in stolen property. He has evaded capture since October 2005. Shortly after that, he stopped in Washington.
Washington corrections records show that Wells got in touch with Clemmons shortly after eluding the FBI. Clemmons told his community corrections officer that he had helped Wells buy a plane ticket using a false name. Clemmons was later interviewed by the FBI.
Another old prison acquaintance was Darcus Dewayne Allen, suspected as the getaway driver who helped Clemmons flee after the Parkland shootings.
Allen, 37, is being held in the Pierce County Jail – he has not been formally charged with assisting Clemmons, but prosecutors have stated their plans to do so.
Instead, Allen is being held as a fugitive out of Arkansas, where an arrest warrant accuses him of committing a robbery earlier this year. Originally, that warrant was not entered into national databases – which is why a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy didn’t see it during a routine traffic stop of Allen last summer.
Allen also served hard time in Arkansas for his role in a fatal liquor store robbery in 1990.
He was a passenger in the getaway car. He was sentenced to 25 years.
He made parole in 2006. Due to the way Arkansas calculates prison sentences, he was no longer under state supervision by the time of the Parkland shootings.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486