OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday the state will no longer accept any more convicted criminals on parole from Arkansas until she's assured of a better system for sending them back.
Officials in Washington and Arkansas have been sparring over who had responsibility for Maurice Clemmons, who police believe killed four Lakewood police officers Sunday at a Parkland coffee shop. Clemmons was shot to death early Tuesday by a Seattle police officer.
Every state has what's called an "Interstate compact." It's an agreement, with rules, to keep track of criminals who move to other states. Many in Washington say Arkansas broke the rules, allowing Clemmons to be set free.
"I'm very troubled by the actions and the inactions of what happened in Arkansas," said Greogire.
Clemmons started his life of crime in Arkansas as a teenager. When he got out of prison as an adult, he was allowed to move to Washington because of family ties here.
Five years later, this past May, he landed in the Pierce County Jail for assaulting two sheriff's deputies and other crimes.
Right away, he bailed out and broke rules - he didn't check back in with his local corrections officer.
"Once he failed to report to us, we said to the state of Arkansas, 'We're done with him. He broke the rules. He violated the conditions allowing him to be in Washington State. Come get him," said Eldon Vail, Dept. of Corrections Secretary.
At first, Arkansas played ball. They issued a warrant to keep Clemmons behind bars with no bail allowed. But when he was re-arrested in the summer, charged with child rape, Arkansas pulled the plug and revoked the warrant.
On Monday, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist told KING 5 News that, most likely, Arkansas didn't want to hassle with another troublemaker.
"That's never been overtly said to me, but I think that that's an inference that we sometimes draw when a state backs away from a warrant. Basically they're saying is, 'Hey, we just don't want this guy back,'" said Lindquist.
With the warrant revoked, Clemmons could bail out. That sparked a string of heated e-mails between Washington and Arkansas. One Washington state Department of Corrections official, Marjorie Owens, wrote on July 23:
“Please provide your justification for cancelling the (warrant). Cancelling the warrant appears to be in violation of the (Interstate Compact) rules. Please explain why you feel cancelling the warrant is not in violation…Hopefully the offender will not get out on bail. I’m concerned that you have no problem releasing your offender into our community, based on his behavior. I thought (the Interstate Compact) was all about community safety.”
Twelve days later, an Arkansas official, Linda Strong, responded with 2 sentences. “The warrant was rescinded. When the pending charges (in Washington) are adjudicated we will reconsider the case.”
Gov. Gregoire says the ban on Arkansas parolees will be in place until she’s assured they can follow the rules properly.
"The question of whether or not Arkansas is living up to its responsibilities, and I have a major question about that and, until I am confident that they are, I've asked the Secretary not to accept any interstate compact from Arkansas," said Gregoire.
That Arkansas warrant was the only piece of paper that could have kept Clemmons in jail, no matter what. As per the Washington state Constitution, all offenders must have the opportunity to post bail, except death penalty cases. Clemmons was able to come up with the money 6 days before the four police officers were killed.
KING 5 News asked officials in Arkansas for a response. They sent us a one line e-mail that said they didn't know what we were talking about and they have no response.
Secretary Vail tells us if the shoe were on the other foot, Washington state would have gone out and got the offender who violated the Interstate Compact, no questions asked. “We would have issued a nation-wide warrant, and we would have gone and got this guy. We pick up about a thousand people a year under similar circumstances. We do it day in and day out,” said Vail.
Currently, Washington state’s Department of Corrections is supervising 2527 offenders from other states under the Interstate Compact.
There are 1,046 offenders from Washington state being supervised in other states under the same agreement.