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In response to a TV ad by Mitt Romney that highlights Mike Huckabee's 1,000-plus pardons, Huckabee tried to turn the tables and said Romney's refusal to grant pardons denied people who committed small crimes a chance to clear their records.
Huckabee cited one case involving "a decorated soldier" who wanted to become a police officer but still had a criminal record from a minor incident when he was 13 years old and shot another boy with a BB gun. "Didn't even break the skin," Huckabee said on NBC's Today Show on Dec. 19.
Huckabee is accurately describing the case of a soldier named Anthony Circosta of Agawam, Mass., a member of the Army National Guard who fought in Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star. He then sought a pardon so he could become a police officer, but was turned down. Circosta did not return a phone call from PolitiFact this week, but Huckabee's description of the case is supported by accounts in the Associated Press and other publications.
"Now, I would have given that kid a pardon," Huckabee said about Circosta in a Fox News Channel interview on Dec. 20. "And everywhere I've gone and asked people for a show of hands, everybody agrees with me."
Romney refused all pardon requests in his four years as governor. "I didn't pardon anybody as governor because I didn't want to overturn a jury," he said during a June 2007 debate.
When he was asked about his policy in December 2007, Romney replied "We looked at the cases one by one and I did not want to provide commutations to people who had weapons violations that were going to be asking to use weapons in their new capacity."
He told reporters that the only reasons he would have issued a pardon or commutation would have been if he found evidence that proved a wrongful conviction, prosecutorial misconduct or errors in the judicial process.
Associated Press, Gov. Romney Held Fast Against Pardons, June 12, 2007
Associated Press, Huckabee pardons Rolling Stones' Richards over 1975 arrest Nov. 9, 2006
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Clemency policy, Massachusetts
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Clemency policy, Arkansas
The Associated Press, Huckabee's record on pardons while governor questioned by critics, Dec. 10, 2007
Interviews: Jay Barth, Hendrix College; Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation; J.J. Vigneault, lobbyist and former political advisor to Huckabee; Andrew Demillo, Little Rock Bureau, Associated Press
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