Mike Huckabee - the former Arkansas governor under increasing scrutiny since his meteoric rise in the polls in Iowa - delivered a lengthy defense yesterday of his controversial role in advocating the early parole for a convicted rapist who killed a woman after he was released.
Huckabee insisted he had not pressured the Arkansas Parole Board to grant early release to Wayne Dumond, who had been sentenced to life plus 20 years for the 1984 kidnapping and rape of a 17-year-old girl.
The Republican governor did meet with the parole board - whose members, he noted, had all been appointed by Democratic governors - but told reporters yesterday, "I did not ask them to do anything."
Huckabee did earlier indicate sympathy for Dumond, whom he said yesterday had "an unblemished prison record" and had met "all of the qualifications for being paroled." In an October interview with the Globe, Huckabee said Dumond's original sentence was unusually long for a person convicted of rape.
But critics - including the prosecutor in the case and the victim of the 1984 rape - say Huckabee wrongly went to bat for a man who should have been kept in prison. Dumond was convicted of sexually assaulting and killing another woman after he was released, and has since died in prison.
"I am deeply sorry, and I mean, awfully, just horrified [at] what happened," Huckabee told reporters.
The Dumond case haunted his reelection campaign as governor, and is being revisited now that Huckabee's support is surging for the Republican presidential nomination.
Victims and relatives of Dumond's victims have been interviewed on national television in recent days.
The Huffington Post, an online newspaper, escalated the matter Tuesday with the disclosure of several letters from women who said Dumond raped or had threatened to rape them. The women, whose names are blacked out in the Huffington Post story, asked Huckabee to do what he could as governor to keep Dumond behind bars.
Huckabee did not say yesterday whether he had read those letters. But in 1996, he spoke to the victim of the 1984 rape, Ashley Stevens, who told the Globe in an October interview that Huckabee "seemed to have already made up his mind. He just thought that Dumond was innocent."
Huckabee said he expected the matter to become an issue in the presidential race. "There will be people who are victims who will probably be brought forth to make statements, but you know, I can't fix it," Huckabee said. "I can only tell the truth and let the truth be my judge."