Politics & Government

Governor acts against Arkansas

Gov. Chris Gregoire (The Olympian File Photo)
Gov. Chris Gregoire (The Olympian File Photo)

Gov. Chris Gregoire ordered a halt to parolee transfers to Washington from Arkansas on Wednesday, citing that state's alleged mishandling of arrest warrants related to the man who later shot and killed four Lakewood police officers.

The move broke with an interstate compact that Washington and all other states participate in. Under it, a parolee can move to another state and be supervised by the second state, but only under certain conditions.

Maurice Clemmons, who was shot to death Tuesday by Seattle police, was on parole from Arkansas and also faced eight felony Washington charges when he went on the shooting rampage early Sunday.

Arkansas issued a warrant for Clemmons’ arrest and return in May but later rescinded it and issued a second warrant in October. There was disagreement between the states about whether Washington could have prevented Clemmons’ release from jail, which Pierce County Judge Thomas Felnagle allowed last week after requiring a $190,000 bond.

“Not only did they not issue the warrant properly, but they, previous to that, quashed a warrant improperly. And their reaction with our administrator of interstate compacts was less than I think we should expect,” Gregoire said during a news conference at the Capitol.

Gregoire said she notified Gov. Mike Beebe’s office in Little Rock on Wednesday of her decision to call a timeout, and staff Corrections Secretary Eldon Vail notified his counterparts in Arkansas.

Beebe’s office did not respond to a reporter’s calls, and staff members with the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, which oversees interstate compacts, could not be reached to comment.

Washington is home to 2,527 parolees from other states, including 15 from Arkansas, and 1,046 supervised offenders from Washington are in other states under terms of the compact, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Gregoire said she might not have authority to flatly reject other states’ parolees and intends to lift the decree once she has assurances that law-breaking parolees will be taken back by Arkansas. Asked whether this might open the state to a lawsuit, Gregoire said: “You know, I don’t care. My job is to protect the people in the state of Washington, first and foremost. When I don’t feel that is happening, I have to take a step like this. So if Arkansas doesn’t like it, sue me.”

Gregoire also said she does not want to lay blame for the deaths – including on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who commuted Clemmons' 108-year sentence in 2000, which made him eligible for parole. The state parole board released him later that year, according to news accounts.

Gregoire said Washington’s corrections staffers took the view all along that Clemmons should remain in jail or be sent to Arkansas after he allegedly went on a crime spree, which included child rape, in May and was charged in July.

Corrections staffers checked with the Pierce County jail Nov. 23, after the Pierce County judge authorized Clemmons’ release on bond, but jail staff said he still was in custody, Vail said.

But about 10 p.m. that same day, Clemmons was released, Vail said. Clemmons did not check in with his community corrections staff within 24 hours, as required; the jail did not notify corrections of the release; and community corrections did not seek to detain Clemmons for violating the order to report, Vail said.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688