Directly contradicting Mike Huckabee's claims, his former senior aide tells the Huffington Post that, as governor of Arkansas, Huckabee indeed told the state's parole board that he supported the release of a convicted rapist.
The senior aide, Olan W. "Butch" Reeves, personally attended a controversial parole board meeting with Huckabee in Oct. 1996.
"The clear impression that I came away with from the meeting was that he favored Dumond's release," Reeves said, referring to convicted rapist Wayne Dumond. "And I can understand why board members would believe that to be the case."
This stands in stark contrast to Huckabee's assertion, repeated at a press conference today that he "did not ask [the board] to do anything." When asked directly about trying to influence the board, Huckabee responded: "No. I did not. Let me categorically say that I did not."
But, according to Reeves, Huckabee actually told the parole board members that the prison sentence meted out to Dumond for his rape conviction was "outlandish" and "way out of bounds for his crime." Huckabee believed there "was something nefarious" about the how the state's criminal justice system had treated Dumond, Reeves said.
Reeves's admission comes as a surprise since the interview was encouraged by Huckabee's presidential campaign. Reeves served as chief counsel to then-Gov. Huckabee until 2003, and was subsequently appointed by Huckabee as chairman of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission. Reeves has donated to Huckabee's presidential campaign.
The Huffington Post reported on Tuesday that Huckabee's gubernatorial office had been privately warned by numerous women that Dumond had sexually assaulted them or their family members, and would likely strike again. Huckabee pushed for the rapists release from prison anyway, and Dumond went on to rape and murder at least one other woman.
In a 2002 story I wrote for the Arkansas Times about Huckabee's role in freeing Dumond, four board members -- three of whom spoke on the record -- said that Huckabee lobbied and pressured board members on the matter. This included the 1996 parole 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.
Huckabee has also noted that all of the parole board members who have said he lobbied them Dumond were Democrats and that they were pursuing a partisan agenda in making their allegations.
Alleging that the parole board members had attempted to "politicize" the matter, Huckabee told CNN on Wednesday: "We ought to extend our grief and heartfelt sorrow to these families. I just regret that politics is reduced to that."
Informed that Reeves had corroborated accounts given by parole board members, a senior aide to Huckabee, speaking on the campaign's behalf, said that they had no immediate comment as to whether Reeves was telling the truth. The aide offered no explanation as to why Reeves, a loyal Huckabee aide and friend, would be motivated to give an account so directly at odds with that of the governor.