Gov. Mike Beebe announced intentions today to grant several pardons, including one for William Lewis, a Conway cattleman with a controversial executive clemency history.
Beebe said he intended to pardon William M. Lewis of Conway, convicted in 1995 of possession and possession with intent to deliver methamphetamines. Beebe said he made the decision based on the date of conviction, Lewis’ completion of the sentence and no further criminal law violations.
Beebe’s office confirms it is the same man who became an issue in the 1998 race for governor. Member of a well-known Conway family with political connections, he was the subject of a Democratic Party ad slamming Gov. Mike Huckabee. The Democrats said Huckabee was soft on crime based on his clemency record, including his commutation of Lewis’ sentence, which made him eligible for parole a year early. The ad said the previous governor, Jim Guy Tucker, had denied parole requests.
The case was hotly controversial. Police in Conway opposed the commutation, calling Lewis a “dope dealing, gun-carrying criminal.” Huckabee claimed a judge supported the commutation, though the judge who sentenced Lewis disputed that. Huckabee said the community, family and others supported the commutation and said that Lewis had a job waiting in his prominent family’s livestock auction business. He was arrested on the possession charge while out on bond on the delivery charge. According to news accounts at the time, a gun used to kill a witness in a Pope County drug trial was traced back to Lewis, but he wasn’t charged in that case. He got 21.5 years total on the drug cases, but concurrent imposition of sentences put his time at 10 years. Huckabee commuted it two years later to less than seven years. No law enforcement agencies objected to Lewis’ pardon, Beebe said in a release.
Looks like Mike Huckabee made an OK call as far as Lewis’ future behavior was concerned. The 1998 Democratic Party ad also mentioned Huckabee’s help in freeing Wayne Dumond. That one didn’t turn out so well — Dumond went on to be convicted of one murder in Missouri and a suspect in another.
There is a 30-day comment period on recommended pardons before they can take effect.
PS — Lewis’ name also popped up — thanks to its use by a would-be kidnapper — in a Conway abduction of tycoon Johnny Allison. A wild tale. The kidnapper’s use of Lewis’ name always was something of a mystery. Allison discussed it in the linked article from Arkansas Business.