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Mike Huckabee on Commuting Sentence of Now-Suspected Cop Killer

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," November 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Investigation" segment tonight: Washington state authorities say 37-year-old Maurice Clemmons walked into a cafe and shot four police officers dead on Sunday. The man had been charged with assaulting a police officer in May. In July, he was charged with raping and molesting a 12-year-old female girl, a relative. But just a week ago this guy was released on $15,000 bail, an incredibly low number for the kind of crimes he is accused of.

All together, he had a total of eight felony charges pending against him. But Judge John McCarthy set the bail and Judge Thomas Finagle signed off on the bail and let him out. We contacted the judges, but they did not return our phone calls, which is not very smart. They will be held accountable.

In addition, Clemmons was incarcerated in Arkansas for burglary and theft, sentenced to 60 years. But then-Governor Mike Huckabee commuted the criminal sentence in the year 2000. Mr. Huckabee, now a FOX News analyst, joins from us Little Rock.

Thanks for being a stand-up guy, governor. A lot of people want an explanation. This is a bad hombre, and you let him out. Why?

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MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Well, Bill, first of all, I think the tragedy of this — if I could have known nine years ago this guy was capable of something of this magnitude, obviously, I would never have granted a commutation. It's sickening. The two people in this country that I value the most are soldiers and police officers, because they're the only thing standing between our freedom and total anarchy. And in the case of this particular individual, he was sentenced to 108 years for two crimes when he was 16. The post-prison transfer board, the process, and I'll be very brief about this, but to understand they recommended to me as governor for his commutation, which didn't release him, it simply cut his sentence to 47 years. That would give him parole eligibility. That was the commutation. I'm responsible for that, and it's not something I'm happy about at this particular moment, in light of that.

O'REILLY: Now, did you study it? Did you study it? I mean, look, governors have a lot of this stuff.

HUCKABEE: Yes.

O'REILLY: Did you study this guy? Did you spend a lot of time on it, or did you just take the advice of your advisers?

HUCKABEE: No, I looked at every case file, and I had 1,200 of these a year. This is what people need to understand. Ninety-two percent of the time they were denied. But in this case, the judge in the case was also recommending and the parole board on a 5-0 vote, because at the age of 16, the sentence he got for the crimes he committed back in 1989 was excessive for anything else that was in Arkansas.

O'REILLY: OK, but it was a bad guy in prison, and the prosecutors told you, so they say, "Hey, this is a hard-core guy. This isn't some kid who went wrong."

HUCKABEE: We didn't have any information from the prosecutors. We sent notices, which is the practice in Arkansas, to five different people: the attorney general, secretary of state, the prosecutor, the judge, and law enforcement. The only official that we have record of getting notification from is the judge who agreed with the recommendation of the parole board. So that's what we acted upon, what I acted upon. I'm responsible for that. And, you know, my heart is broken for four families tonight.

O'REILLY: Well, it's not your fault, governor. I mean, look, you've got 1,200 of these cases a year. You've got to look at them. I'm not saying it's your fault. I don't think anybody watching thinks it's your fault. But the judges in Washington state, come on. I mean, this guy moves from your state, Arkansas, to Washington state, and then he racks up eight felony charges. Eight felonies, including the rape of a 12-year-old.

HUCKABEE: That's inexcusable, Bill.

O'REILLY: And these clowns, these judges give him a $15,000 walk, which he makes through a bail bondsman. And I mean — and then they don't even return our calls to say, like you are right now, "Here's why we did it." I mean, this is insane. When you have a guy like that, a rape charge against a 12-year-old, and you let the guy out on $15,000? That's — there's no excuse on earth for that, governor. Would you agree?

HUCKABEE: I would totally agree, Bill. And one of the things that's sad is that, after this guy was commuted, that just made him parole-eligible. Then he qualified for parole and was paroled. But he violated his parole in Arkansas, was put back in prison. Now, here's the real tragedy. The prosecutors failed to file the paperwork in a timely way, and so they had to drop the charges. That's what released him the second time.

O'REILLY: And then he got back out again.

HUCKABEE: Then he went to Washington.

O'REILLY: But the judges in Washington state, they knew all of his history from age 16 onward.

HUCKABEE: Yes. But at this point, this guy is a career criminal...

O'REILLY: He's a career criminal.

HUCKABEE: ...with escalating sense of violence and psychotic behavior. And, no, there's no explanation for why he was out on the streets.

O'REILLY: OK, now, let me ask you this. Most judges who do this kind of stuff, in our experience, and you've followed the program.

HUCKABEE: Sure.

O'REILLY: You know, Jessica's Law, and we hold the judges accountable. They won't explain why they do what they do. They hide behind some sort of statute or this and that. I just think that's terrible. Be like you, be a stand-up person. Come on in and say, "This is why I did what I did." Am I wrong?

HUCKABEE: No. I think it's important for people to understand the process and the reasoning behind decisions. Sometimes it's difficult, and it's complicated. But for the most part, people, I think, can understand that you are acting on what you know, not on what might happen out there in the future. In this case, with Washington judges certainly, there was a pretty good long history of adult behavior on this guy.

O'REILLY: And two judges, two judges signed off on this crazy bail.

Governor, thanks very much for being a stand-up guy. As I said, we appreciate it.

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