Former Republican governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin issued at least 419 commutations and 161 pardons while exiting office this week, setting off a firestorm of criticism that has now turned into calls for an investigation.
One of the pardons that has drawn scrutiny went to murderer Patrick Baker who was convicted of reckless homicide and sentenced to 19 years for a 2017 home break-in where prosecutors say Baker and an accomplice shot and killed a man in front of his wife. Baker’s family raised $21,500 last year for Bevin at a political fundraiser, the The Courier Journal reported.
“This reeks of political favoritism. We can’t have that. People need to trust our system of government and our officials are doing the right thing,” said Kentucky’s Democratic Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey while calling for an independent special prosecutor to investigate wrongdoing.
The former Republican governor also pardoned Micah Schoettle, who was convicted of raping a 9-year-old and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
“It shocks the conscience. It’s offensive, it’s mind-boggling how any governor could be this irresponsible. It’s an abomination of the criminal justice system,” the victim’s Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders told WCPO.
In a Twitter thread on Friday, Bevin defended his actions and said that financial and political considerations had nothing to do with the pardons.
“The myriad statements and suggestions that financial or political considerations played a part in the decision making process, are both highly offensive and entirely false… To repeat such uncorroborated rumors and lies is reprehensible,” Bevin wrote.
Bevin also wrote that he’d “personally spent hundreds of hours” reviewing each case in question, adding, “Not one person receiving a pardon would I not welcome as a co-worker, neighbor, or to sit beside me or any member of my family in a church pew or at a public event.”