Just days before two Mississippi killers were pardoned by Haley Barbour, CNN has learned David Gatlin and Charles Hooker were issued brand new driver's licenses, even though they were still technically incarcerated, working as trusties at the Governor's mansion... Which begs the question: how do two inmates get driver's licenses while they're still in custody of the prison system?
Haley Barbour's chief security officer tells CNN he personally drove both men from the Governor's mansion here over to the driver's license office himself. He told us that he knew both men would be pardoned and he hoped having licenses would help them find jobs.
We asked him if he thought this was unusually favorable treatment for an inmate to get, and he told us 'it probably would be.'" He said that Governor Barbour did not direct him to do this. And yes, it's also legal.
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety says inmates can acquire and renew licenses while still in prison.
Randy Walker was shot in the head by pardoned prison trusty David Gatlin. Walker is furious that the man who shot him would get so much preferential treatment. "That's just mind-blowing! Where is enough is enough? It should be enough that they gave a convicted killer his life back."
Barbour's security chief suggests the licenses would help them find jobs. But why else would either of these men need a drivers license? to drive their newly purchased cars, of course. CNN has obtained investigators' reports from the Mississippi Attorney General's office, which detail how Gatlin and Hooker also had cars ready for them the day they were pardoned. According to the report, Haley Barbour's wife called a salesman at a car dealership. It says, "Marsha Barbour contacted him regarding the purchase of vehicles for Hooker and Gatlin."
The salesman allegedly told investigators that "the inmates had been brought to the dealership on January 6, 2012, in a black Ford Crown Victoria to complete paperwork for the sale." January 6th is the very day that their pardons were signed, but two days before the men were officially released. The salesman also "stated that he delivered both vehicles to the Governor's mansion."
We asked Governor Barbour about it. He refused to answer directly, but the Governor's spokeswoman told CNN in an email that our questions regarding the drivers' licenses, the purchase of the cars and the role of his wife - quote - "were based on assumptions of fact which simply are not true." The Mississippi Department of Public Safety tells CNN, "to our knowledge, no policies were broken."
But a Democratic state representative, who oversees the Department of Public Safety, calls the preferential treatment appalling. "Not only just to turn these folks loose but to give them -- treat them like kings, essentially. I think it's way out of bounds. It's outside the bounds of common decency and what we expect of our government."
So, who paid for the cars? The short answer: no one is saying. According to the report, Hooker told investigators his son helped him buy the car, and made the first three payments on his 2007 Ford Focus.
David Gatlin got a 2009 Chevy HHR. According to the investigative report, Gatlin was asked by investigators where he got the car. Gatlin allegedly replied, quote, "I can't tell you."
To Randy Walker, it's just one more injustice, one more example of a situation beyond corrupt. "Where's my handout? I mean, I had thousands upon thousands of medical bills that nobody helped me pay. Stuff that's a necessity. I had to have this medical stuff done. I'm not one to go to fits of anger, but it really... My blood pressure is boiling."
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