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State seeks to block Wallace shooter's release

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — The Alabama attorney general's office said Friday it hoped to block the early release from a Maryland prison of the man who shot former Gov. George C. Wallace while Wallace campaigned for president in 1972.

While it appeared unlikely Alabama officials can do anything to keep Arthur Bremer behind bars, a longtime Wallace aide said he welcomed the effort by Attorney General Troy King.

King spokesman Chris Bence said the attorney general believes Bremer should remain in prison, and his office is trying to determine whether it could postpone freedom for Bremer.

"This is just another of many, many instances where someone's acts were so heinous and horrific that any early release makes a mockery of the law," Bence said in an interview.

But Maryland parole official Ruth Ogle said there was nothing Alabama officials could do about Bremer since Maryland law allows inmates to reduce their prison terms with good behavior.

Bremer has earned enough credit for good behavior to be released from his 53-year prison term no later than mid-December. He will have served more than 35 years.

One Maryland parole official described Bremer, 57, as a "model inmate."

But Elvin Stanton, who spent weeks with Wallace at a hospital after the shooting and watched the former governor endure years of pain in a wheelchair, said Bremer has never expressed any regret for his actions.

"If someone is not remorseful for what they did, should they get out of prison early?" said Stanton, Wallace's chief of staff.

Forgives shooter

Wallace publicly forgave Bremer before dying in 1998, and Stanton said the four-term governor likely would not protest the release were he still alive.

"He, perhaps, was more forgiving than the rest of us," said Stanton.

A 1997 letter to parole officials from Bremer indicated that hatred of Wallace's racial politics played a role in the shooting. Bremer wrote that he should be released early from prison because "segregationist dinosaurs" were different from other politicians.

"They are extinct, not endangered, by an act of God," Bremer wrote.

One condition of Bremer's release is that he stay away from all elected officials and political candidates.

"That was something that the chairman decided was appropriate, given the circumstances of this case," said Ogle, a program manager with the parole commission.

Ogle said the Secret Service could request special conditions for Bremer's release but has not done so.

Bremer within the past several weeks refused a psychiatric screening requested by the Secret Service, Ogle said. Prison officials can't force Bremer to submit to such an exam, and Ogle said he has not had a mental health review since before his lone parole hearing in 1996.

Bremer was denied early release in that hearing, with parole official Thomas Pennewell saying at the time that to release Bremer early would proclaim "open hunting season" on other politicians.

Pennewell, who retired last year, stood by that decision in an interview with The Associated Press. He also said he was not troubled to learn Bremer had earned his release, and he does not expect Bremer to target other politicians.

"I don't know that there are necessarily people who are serial seekers of notoriety, at least I've never heard of that, so I'm assuming that he won't be a danger," Pennewell said. "I certainly hope he won't."

——

AP writer Ben Nuckols in Baltimore, Md., contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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