The news that somebody Gov. Tim Pawlenty pardoned is now accused of sexual assault is triggering a debate over how it may affect his presidential ambitions, particularly given that Mike Huckabee has come under criticism for controversial pardons. However, the circumstances surrounding Pawlenty's pardon were a lot different.
Pawlenty pardoned a man who served jail time for having sex with his 14-year old girlfriend who he went on to marry. Pawlenty spokesman Bruce Gordon told the Star Tribune:
The pardoned offense "involved sexual conduct between two people who became husband and wife, maintained a long-term marriage, had a family together," Gordon said. "The defendant completed his sentence many years before seeking the pardon, which his wife and others supported."
It now turns out the man, Jeremy Giefer, is accused of assaulting a different girl hundreds of times, both before and after he received the pardon.
Yet in Huckabee's case, it isn't a matter of just one pardon that had wide support at the time. As I documented when he ran for president, Huckabee set loose savage criminals convicted of grisly murders over the passionate objections of prosecutors and victims' families. Over the course of his 10 and a half years as governor, Huckabee granted a staggering 1,033 clemencies, according to the Associated Press. That was more than double the combined 507 that were granted during the 17 and a half years of his three predecessors: Bill Clinton, Frank White, and Jim Guy Tucker.
In one of the more high profile cases, convicted rapist Wayne Dumond went on to murder a woman in Missouri after being let out of prison under Huckabee's watch. Since the last presidential election, another one of the men who was released under Huckabee, Maurice Clemmons, went on to kill four cops in Washington state.
So, clearly, Pawlenty is on much stronger ground defending his decision against Huckabee's record. That said, should Huckabee run, he'd likely exploit Pawlenty's pardon to respond to attacks against his own record. And even if it isn't an apt comparison, it may help Huckabee muddy the waters a bit for voters who don't pay much attention to details.
UPDATE: Pawlenty spokesman Bruce Gordon, quoted above, emails to emphasize that pardon decisions are made by a three-person board, and not by the governor alone. In this case, the decision was unanimous. He also passes on the following statement:
The Governor has consistently opposed pardons for sex offenders and believes sex offenses are heinous. However, the Board made an exception in this case and voted unanimously to pardon this 1994 conviction because it involved sexual conduct between two people who became husband and wife, maintained a long-term marriage, had a family together, and because the defendant completed his sentence many years before seeking the pardon which his wife and others supported. Obviously, had this new information been available to the Board at the time of the pardon request, the pardon should not and would not have been granted.
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