Little Rock, Ark -- As governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee aggressively pushed for the early release of a convicted rapist despite being warned by numerous women that the convict had sexually assaulted them or their family members, and would likely strike again. The convict went on to rape and murder at least one other woman.
Confidential Arkansas state government records, including letters from these women, revealed publicly for the first time, directly contradict the version of events now being put forward by Huckabee.
While on the campaign trail, Huckabee has claimed that he supported the 1999 release of Wayne Dumond because, at the time, he had no good reason to believe that the man represented a further threat to the public. Thanks to Huckabee's intervention, conducted in concert with a right-wing tabloid campaign on Dumond's behalf, Dumond was let out of prison 25 years before his sentence would have ended.
"There's nothing any of us could ever do," Huckabee said Sunday on CNN when asked to reflect on the horrific outcome caused by the prisoner's release. "None of us could've predicted what [Dumond] could've done when he got out."
But the confidential files show that Huckabee was provided letters from several women who had been sexually assaulted by Dumond and who indeed predicted that he would rape again - and perhaps murder - if released.
In a letter that has never before been made public, one of Dumond's victims warned: "I feel that if he is released it is only a matter of time before he commits another crime and fear that he will not leave a witness to testify against him the next time." Before Dumond was granted parole at Huckabee's urging, records show that Huckabee's office received a copy of this letter from Arkansas' parole board.
The woman later wrote directly to Huckabee about having been raped by Dumond. In a letter, she said that Dumond had raped her while holding a butcher knife to her throat, and while her then-3-year-old daughter lay in bed next to her. Also included in the files sent to Huckabee's office was a police report in which Dumond confessed to the rape. Dumond was not charged in that particular case because he later refused to sign the confession and because the woman was afraid to press charges.
[See the full letters sent to Huckabee's office here.]
Huckabee kept these and other documents secret because they were politically damaging, according to a former aide who worked for him in Arkansas. The aide has made the records available, deeply troubled by Huckabee's repeated claims that he had no reason to believe Dumond would commit other violent crimes upon his release from prison. The aide also believes that Huckabee, for political reasons, has deliberately attempted to cover up his knowledge of Dumond's other sexual assaults.
"There were no letters sent to the governor's office from any rape victims," Huckabee campaign spokesperson Alice Stewart said on Tuesday when contacted by the Huffington Post.
Subsequently, however, the campaign provided a former senior aide of Huckabee's who did remember reading at least one of the letters.
But Huckabee and his aides insist that his receipt of the letters is irrelevant because the decision to release Dumond was made by the parole board. Huckabee on Tuesday again denied allegations by former parole board members that he lobbied them to release Dumond. "I did not ask them to do anything," he said. "I did indicate [Dumond's case] was sitting at my desk and I was giving thought to it."
Charmaine Yoest, a senior adviser to the Huckabee campaign, told the Huffington Post: "I think what should be considered here is that if he [Huckabee] could have changed what happened, he would. His whole life has been about respect for life and understanding the value of each individual life. Nobody regrets the loss of life here more than him."
In 1996, as a newly elected governor who had received strong support from the Christian right, Huckabee was under intense pressure from conservative activists to pardon Dumond or commute his sentence. The activists claimed that Dumond's initial imprisonment and various other travails were due to the fact that Ashley Stevens, the high school cheerleader he had raped, was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton, and the daughter of a major Clinton campaign contributor.
The case for Dumond's innocence was championed in Arkansas by Jay Cole, a Baptist minister and radio host who was a close friend of the Huckabee family. It also became a cause for New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy, who repeatedly argued for Dumond's release, calling his conviction "a travesty of justice." On Sept. 21, 1999, Dunleavy wrote a column headlined "Clinton's Biggest Crime - Left Innocent Man In Jail For 14 Years":
"Dumond, now 52, was given conditional parole yesterday in Arkansas after having being sentenced to 50 years in jail for the rape of Clinton's cousin," Dunleavy wrote. "That rape never happened."
A subsequent Dunleavy column quoted Huckabee saying: "There is grave doubt to the circumstances of this reported crime."
After Dumond's release from prison in September 1999, he moved to Smithville, Missouri, where he raped and suffocated to death a 39-year-old woman named Carol Sue Shields. Dumond was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison for that rape and murder.
But Dumond's arrest for those crimes in June 2001 came too late for 23-year-old Sara Andrasek of Platte County, Missouri. Dumond allegedly raped and murdered her just one day before his arrest for raping and murdering Shields. Prior to the attack, Andrasek and her husband had learned that she was pregnant with their first child.
Dumond died of natural causes while in prison on September 1, 2005. At the time of his death, Missouri authorities were readying capital murder charges against Dumond for the rape and murder of Andrasek.
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Huckabee has refused to release his gubernatorial administration's records on the matter, saying that he was concerned for the privacy of Dumond's victims and that the records contain sensitive law enforcement information.
The Arkansas Parole Board also refuses to make public any letters or warnings it received from Drumond's victims. "We don't release comments for or against a clemency application or a parole case," the Board's spokesperson said, "except when they are comments from public officials."
But most of the women assaulted by Dumond and interviewed for this story say that Huckabee could have made information public while guarding their privacy. Law enforcement authorities also scoffed at the idea that anything in the records would have harmed an ongoing investigation since Dumond is no longer alive .
The records revealed in this story -- including correspondence between Dumond's victims and Huckabee, as well as the governor's own file regarding Dumond -- were provided to me in the fall of 2002 by a Republican staffer to then-Gov. Huckabee.
I made the decision not to make the files public at that time because of concern for the privacy of the rape victims and their families. I felt that their right to privacy outweighed the public's right to know, although I understand why many people would disagree.
Now that Huckabee is running for president, and after consulting with the victims and their families, I have decided to proceed, given what his actions on the case - and his attempts to whitewash his involvement in it -- say about his judgment and integrity.
During a 2002 bid by Huckabee to be re-elected governor of Arkansas, the staffer who provided the documents attended a meeting where Huckabee and top aides expressed concerns that information in the files showing that other women had told Huckabee about being raped by Dumond might somehow become public, and thus become an issue for his opponent. The information remained secret, and Huckabee won a tight race for re-election.
The staffer said that during that same period, another senior aide to Huckabee suggested asking other state agencies, which might have portions or even the entirety of the Dumond file, to transfer their records to the governor's office. If the files were transferred, the aide to Huckabee said, they would no longer be obtainable by reporters or political opponents under the state's Freedom of Information statute.
Arkansas has one of the most progressive Freedom of Information laws in the country. People need only to make requests orally whereupon state officials have to quickly respond and make them public. Governors, in sharp contrast, have wide latitude in deciding which of their own files to make public.
"The files had to be disappeared because there just wasn't a plausible explanation for the governor's stance," the former staffer said. "I mean, what could the governor say? That he believes these women made up their stories? That women lie when they say they are raped?"
Asked on Tuesday whether Huckabee would release his file on Dumond, campaign spokesperon Alice Stewart said, "We're not the governor, we don't have the file." Asked if Huckabee would ask the current governor to release the file, she responded, "No. I don't want to see it. You apparently want to see it."
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Dumond raped Ashley Stevens, Clinton's distant cousin, in 1984 when she was a 17-year-old high school student in Forest City, Arkansas.
He was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years. In 1992, Jim Guy Tucker, who became governor of Arkansas after Clinton left office, reduced Dumond's sentence to 39.5 years.
Shortly after taking office in 1996, Huckabee announced his intention to commute Dumond's sentence to time served. A public outcry ensued.
Stevens, her father, and Fletcher Long, the Arkansas state prosecuting attorney who sent Dumond to prison, met with Huckabee to protest.
"'This is how close I was to Wayne Dumond,'" Stevens says she told Huckabee at the time. "'I will never forget his face. And now I don't want you ever to forget my face.'"
Stevens now says: "This isn't and was never about politics. This is about a rapist. This is about a murderer. ... I might never forget Dumond's face, but there are other women [for whom] Dumond's face was the last thing they ever saw on this earth... I would hope that Huckabee would remember the faces of his victims."
Stevens, who had been silent about her rape and not identified in the press for more than a dozen years, finally spoke out publicly in 1996 after feeling frustrated by her meeting with Huckabee. Twenty women members of the state House of Representatives protested the commutation proposal. The editorial pages of some Arkansas newspapers questioned Huckabee's judgment and suggested he reconsider.
What the public never knew, however, was that other women who had been sexually assaulted by Dumond had privately written Huckabee about their anguish. Their very private attempts at changing Huckabee's mind, they later said, were based on concerns that speaking out publicly would have been too painful and traumatizing.
One such letter was from the daughter of a Dumond rape victim:
When you ran for office, one of the reasons I voted for you was the fact you are/were a Baptist preacher. I come from a very strong Baptist background... [O]ne of my grandfathers is also a preacher. I have always been a faithful church member where I am the choir director, yet this is one event that is not so easily forgiven.
I have prayed about these feelings, but once someone hurts your mother, or daughter the way this man hurt my mother I believe that you would feel the same...
Please understand that this letter is coming from my heart.... I would love to have the chance to talk to you about this matter as a daughter of a surviving rape victim.
The woman provided Huckabee with her personal phone number in hopes that he or at least someone on his staff would call. She says that she never heard back.
What was left unsaid in her letter to Huckabee was that she was three years old when, in the 1970s, Dumond raped her mother. The girl was in her mother's bed asleep when the rape occurred. Dumond held a butcher's knife to her mother's throat during the assault.
In an interview, her mother described how she fought with Dumond to wrestle the knife away from him, willing to risk her own life rather than suffer at Dumond's hands.
But Dumond overcame her resistance. He pointed to her daughter sleeping next to her and threatened: "If you don't cooperate with me, she'll be next."
The woman did as she was told. As Dumond continued to violently rape her, the woman recalled, she lay consciously and deliberately silent. Even as she was being assaulted, she gently stroked her daughter's hair, praying she would not wake up.
When the assault was over, the woman said, Dumond threatened to come back and rape and kill her daughter if she told anyone.
Twenty-three years after the rape, the girl who had been protected by her mother's silence attempted to persuade Huckabee to keep Dumond behind bars. Fearing that the rapist would attack her mother again, she wrote to the governor:
Governor Huckabee, I really wish you could spend one night in my mother's home. Even though twenty years have past [sic?] she still has trouble sleeping at night. The house is never dark...
Friday afternoon when I heard the dreadful news [that Huckabee intended to commute Dumond], I was the one to tell my mother. She was on her way out of town and I didn't want her to hear this on the radio while she was driving. I wish you could have heard the emptiness in her voice.
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In her own letter to Huckabee, the woman who was raped by Dumond in the 1970s wrote that she felt deep guilt over what happened later to Ashley Stevens:
I feel responsible for Ashley's years of suffering at Dumond's hands because I was so naïve as to believe that since Dumond was arrested for raping me that he had learned his lesson and would not do it again. I was raised to take a person at their word, so I believed him when he said he was sorry.
The woman said in an interview that she wrote Huckabee out of concern for him. If she felt so much guilt about what happened to Ashley Stevens, she wondered, what private Hell would Huckabee go through if he commuted Dumond's sentence, and Dumond harmed or even killed someone else?
If Huckabee had any doubt that the woman and her daughter were telling the truth, included in the materials provided to him was a police report in which Dumond confessed to authorities that he had raped the woman.
According to the report, "Wayne stated that he went upstairs to the bedroom, and that the woman was asleep when he went into the room. Wayne stated the woman woke up, and he held a knife on her while he committed the rape, and that the woman's baby was in the bed with her."
When police detectives pressed Dumond to admit his involvement in other rapes, however, he "stated that he desired not to answer any further questions" and also "refused to read, sign, or initial the statement that he had made in the presence" of police officers.
Also in the file sent to Huckabee was a letter from yet another woman who said that Dumond attempted to rape her, with some striking similarities to other accounts of Dumond's assaults.
This woman wrote that she awoke in her bed to find Dumond above her: "Standing there, yielding a butcher knife above his head was the shadow of a man..."
Startled, she asked who was there. Dumond threatened her by saying he would cut her throat. But, as the woman wrote, once Dumond's "eyes got accustomed to the darkness, he saw the figure of someone laying next to me." When Dumond saw her boyfriend, he became frightened and skittish.
"At this," the woman wrote, "Wayne realized we were not alone, jumped up from the bed, and leaped down the stairs in three bounds and I heard him go out the front door...and ran across the street into the darkness."
The woman explained in her letter why Dumond was not arrested: "I was talked out of filing charges by the city police because they said rape cases are hard to prove, that I might be able to charge him with breaking and entering, assault and battery, etc., but that the evidence was slight. I took their advice."
There was additional and compelling evidence available to then-Governor Huckabee that releasing Dumond would pose a threat to society.
Dumond had been previously arrested for violent acts and an attempted sexual assault of an underage girl.
In 1972, Dumond had been arrested for his involvement in the beating death of man in Lawton, Oklahoma. Court records showed that the man who was murdered had been dating an ex-wife of a Dumond friend named Bill Cherry. Enlisting the aid of Cherry's underage daughter to lure the man to a public park, Cherry, Dumond, and a third man bludgeoned the individual to death with a claw hammer.
Dumond was granted immunity from prosecution in the case in exchange for his testimony against the other two men. On the witness stand, Dumond admitted to beating the man repeatedly over the head with a claw hammer, but denied that he struck the fatal blows.
Dumond said that when Cherry asked him to finish off the victim, he refused, only to have one of the others do the deed. Dumond's accomplices, however, claimed that it was he who was responsible for the killing.
The following year, in 1973, Dumond was arrested again, this time for attempting to assault a teenage girl in a parking lot in Tacoma, Washington. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to five-years probation.
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In an effort to preempt scrutiny of the Dumond case, Huckabee has said that if the issue were to be raised during the '08 race, it would be because his rivals for the nomination feel threatened by his campaign. "Suddenly I seem to be in the cross hairs of every predator who is out there," Huckabee told reporters recently. "To me that seems to be a good sign of life."
When he was governor of Arkansas, Huckabee similarly attempted to deflect Dumond-related criticism by claiming that those raising the issue -- among them, members of the state's parole board, women state legislators, journalists, and even one of Dumond's victims -- were doing so for partisan political purposes.
"If he makes it about politics, he doesn't answer the hard questions about why he did what he did," says Larry Jegley, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' sixth judicial district. Jegley is a Democrat who campaigned against Huckabee when he ran for re-election because of Huckabee's actions on the Dumond case, as well as his commutation of the sentences of other convicts who went on to commit additional crimes.
Although Huckabee has yet to give a detailed account as to why he pushed to free Dumond, he provided his fullest explanation to date in his published campaign manifesto "From Hope to Higher Ground." In the book, he wrote that he was moved to act on Dumond's behalf because he believed Dumond might have been wrongly convicted. Ashley Stevens and Fletcher Long confirmed in interviews for this story that when they met with then-Gov. Huckabee, he insisted to them that Dumond might be innocent.
Huckabee also wrote in "From Hope to Higher Ground" that he moved to act on Dumond's behalf out of compassion. He said on numerous other occasions that he felt sympathy for Dumond because Dumond was allegedly castrated while awaiting trial for raping Ashley Stevens. Dumond had claimed that unknown assailants wearing masks broke into his home, hogtied him, and then surgically removed his testicles.
Evidence has since come to light indicating that Dumond might not have been attacked but engaged in an act of self-mutilation. A physician who treated Dumond after his alleged attack told police, according to state police records, that Dumond's own wife asked him "if it was possible for Dumond to have inflicted the wound himself." The Forest City Times Herald, which published a series of articles about the Dumond controversy in 1996, quoted experts on sexual predators as saying it was not uncommon for them to engage in acts of self-mutilation to garner sympathy or because they feel guilt for what they have done.
Huckabee also wrote in his campaign book that his intervention on Dumond's behalf reflected his broad philosophy that the criminal justice system is too harsh, and that his religious faith requires him to take chances to act with compassion towards the accused.
Regarding the Dumond case, a Huckabee adviser says: "It might have been wrongheaded for him to do what he did. But his heart might have been in the right place even though the outcome was horrific. What he did was for reasons of faith and compassion."
But the daughter of one of Dumond's rape victims -- herself devoutly religious -- wrote Huckabee wondering whether his faith was leading him down the wrong path:
You were called to deliver the work of the Lord as you interpret the Bible. [But] the actions you are taking you are taking in regard to Dumond's release makes me believe that you are trying to act as the Lord. There were twelve people on the jury that convicted him of this crime. There have been numerous people on the jury that convicted him of this crime.
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Huckabee has also tried to deflect criticism over his role in freeing Dumond by saying that his two immediate predecessors, Jim Guy Tucker and Bill Clinton, were responsible for Dumond's release.
Huckabee wrote in "From Hope to Higher Ground": "In 1992, while Governor Bill Clinton was out of state campaigning for president, Acting Governor Jim Guy Tucker, the lieutenant governor, commuted Dumond's sentence, making him eligible for parole... While there was speculation at the time that Governor Clinton was unaware that the commutation was going to take place, I know from my understanding of the inner workings of the process in the governor's office how impossible that would be."
Tucker, however, only reduced Dumond's initial sentence of life in prison plus 20 years to a total of 39.5 years -- which meant that Dumond was still unlikely to get out of prison until he was an elderly man, if at all.
Moreover, Tucker told the Huffington Post in an interview that, in stark contrast to Huckabee's advocacy on Dumond's behalf, he had told his parole board that he did not believe Dumond should be paroled. Tucker also said that, contrary to Huckabee's claim, Clinton had entirely recused himself from the matter because Ashley Stevens was a distant relative.
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Huckabee and his aides have always denied that he secretly pressured the Arkansas parole board to free Dumond in an effort to hide his involvement and avoid political fallout.
But, in a 2002 story I wrote for the Arkansas Times about Huckabee's role in freeing Dumond, four board members -- three of who spoke on the record -- said that Huckabee lobbied and pressured board members on the matter. This included a 1996 executive meeting at which the board's recording secretary -- who ordinarily tapes the entire sessions -- was asked to leave the room. Several board members and members of the state legislature have said the secret session violated state law.
Huckabee, in turn, has said that all four parole board members have lied about his role in Dumond's release from prison.
For a full and detailed refutation of that claim, read the 2002 piece here.
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So while Huckabee continues to rise in the polls, Dumond's victims are left with questions as to why the former Arkansas Governor did what he did.
The woman who was raped by Dumond while her 3-year-old daughter lay beside her says that one day she worked up the nerve to call Ashley Stevens to tell her how sorry she was. The two began to discuss their shared trauma.
"It was when I first began talking to Ashley that I began to heal," the woman said.
When Huckabee pushed through Dumond's parole, she says, "It was like he believed we were lying and Dumond was telling the truth. I wish he would now say in front of the entire world whether we told the truth or lied. And if he believes we told the truth, explain why he did what he did."
In 2001, the woman ran into Huckabee in her hometown. She wanted to know if he had any regrets in light of the Missouri murders.
"He was down here on a fishing trip," she recalled, "He was in one of the convenience stores and I went in to get me a Coke. And I went up and spoke to him.
"And all he said was, `How are you doing?' That was it."