Wallace assailant due for release

Bremer is expected to remain in Md., prison sources say

November 09, 2007|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,Sun reporter

Arthur H. Bremer, who has spent the past 35 years behind bars for shooting and paralyzing former Alabama Gov. George Wallace during a presidential campaign stop in Maryland in 1972, was scheduled to be released today from the state prison system.

Prison officials, who have sought to keep Bremer's release low-key, refused to confirm the date, which was disclosed in an e-mail to victims. They also would not say where Bremer, 57, will live, though prison system sources said it will be somewhere in Maryland.

Maryland Parole Commission Chairman David Blumberg said in August that officials were trying to find transitional housing for Bremer - such as a halfway house - in a rural area away from larger population centers. He also said special conditions would be imposed, such as requiring that Bremer stay away from political candidates and rallies or public events.

A native of Milwaukee, Bremer was 21, a high school graduate and janitor, when he shot Wallace and wounded three others, including a Secret Service agent, during a political rally at a Laurel shopping center. The shooting forced Wallace, the one-time segregationist, to abandon his maverick bid to become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee.

In journal entries that came out at his trial, Bremer wrote that he had stalked President Richard M. Nixon and wanted to make a "statement of my manhood for the world to see." He later switched to Wallace, a less well-guarded target than a sitting president.

Described as a model prisoner at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, his home since 1974, Bremer's infraction-free history qualified him for mandatory release under Maryland law after having served roughly two-thirds of his 53-year sentence, authorities said.

"This is not an early release that is discretionary," Blumberg said this week. "It is by operation of law." Almost every state has systems in place to give inmates an incentive to change their behavior, he said. If they break prison rules, they lose credits that count toward an earlier release date.

An automatic e-mail notification sent to victims yesterday stated that Bremer's release date was set for Nov. 9, but said the date could change, based on unspecified factors.

It was not clear yesterday whether media attention might postpone his release. Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said release dates of inmates are not a matter of public record.

"The department feels that the public's interest is best served by Arthur Bremer having the time to acclimate to today's world at his own pace, and also with anonymity," Binetti said. "We're trying to prevent public pressure on him because we feel public safety is best served by him feeling safe, comfortable and secure."

The plans for Bremer's early release provoked outrage in Alabama.

"It is an affront to justice, it is an affront to the Wallace family and it is an affront to the citizens of Alabama that this man could escape the small measure of justice that remained," Alabama Attorney General Troy King said in a statement yesterday.

Wallace's daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy of Montgomery, Ala., told the Sun in a telephone interview that she believes Bremer should have served out his full sentence.

"He hurt a lot of people," Kennedy said. "My father suffered for 25 years after that, and his children suffered right along with him. His physical pain was our emotional pain."

Wallace died in 1998.

While Bremer's confinement is coming to an end, Blumberg said, he will continue to be supervised by parole and probation agents until his sentence is officially up on June 15, 2025.

Blumberg said that conditions are set for those leaving prison under mandatory release. For example, they have to report regularly to a parole or probation agent. They can be told they can't leave the state or change employment without permission, he said.

They also can be ordered to submit to a mental health evaluation and, if warranted, required to undergo mental health treatment, Blumberg said. "When I put conditions on, I do it trying to help them achieve success," he said.

Bremer's younger brother, Roger Bremer, who lives in Milwaukee, told the Sun in August that Secret Service agents contacted him last spring about the possibility of Arthur Bremer moving in with him in Wisconsin after his release.

"The Secret Service told me they don't want him around the Washington area," Roger Bremer said then. But he said he was wary of what his brother might be like after 35 years in prison and could not take him in.

greg.garland@baltsun.com

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