Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) has been prolific with his pardons since he lost his reelection to Democrat Andy Beshear in November, issuing so many before his final day in office that the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office has struggled to keep up.
Of those 428 pardons and commutations, Bevin issued some of them to people convicted of extremely violent crimes.
One of them, Patrick Baker, has attracted particular attention.
Baker was convicted in Knox County Circuit Court in 2017 of murder, robbery, impersonating a peace officer and tampering with physical evidence, per the pardon order. His crimes are connected to a fatal home invasion in 2014, though court records indicate that his murder charge was amended to reckless homicide. He had only served two years of his 19-year sentence.
In the pardon, Bevin calls the evidence that convicted Baker “sketchy at best” and blamed Baker’s “unwise decisions” on his “drug addiction” and the people it brought into his orbit.
But there may be an additional reason Bevin selected Baker for clemency.
As the Louisville Courier-Journal first reported, Baker’s family members raised $21,500 at a 2018 fundraiser to help alleviate debt incurred during Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign. Other family members also made direct personal donations during and after the event. A photo of Bevin attending the fundraiser was published in the local newspaper.
Some of the other people Bevin pardoned were convicted of extremely gruesome crimes, more controversial than most outgoing officials like to touch.
As the Kentucky New Era first reported, Bevin pardoned Dayton Jones, who was convicted of first-degree sodomy, first-degree wanton endangerment and first-degree distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor in 2016.
Jones and three others sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy at a party so violently that he suffered internally injuries. The attack was filmed and posted on social media. None of the other three has been included in Bevin’s pardons.
The full text of Jones’ pardon is not on the state secretary of state’s website, though it flashes a warning that due to the “volume of final actions” taken by Bevin’s office, “documents are still being processed.”
The same is true for Micah Schoettle, who was serving 23 years for raping a 9-year-old child. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders said that Schoettle will not have to register as a sex offender.
Bevin’s list also includes Kathy Harless, who the Enquirer reported was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2003 after she gave birth in an outhouse at a flea market and threw the infant into a cesspool.
Also pardoned is Blake Walker, who murdered his parents in 2002 when he was 16. “Blake Walker is blessed by a loving and forgiving family and it is this alone that tips the delicate balance in the direction of his request,” Bevin wrote, adding that it is impossible for him to “capture his full thought process” as he weighed the pardon.
Bevin’s shocking pardons have somewhat overshadowed his successor, who was sworn in on Tuesday. Per the Courier-Journal, Bevin refused to turn over the keys to the Governor’s Mansion until two hours before Beshear’s official swearing in. The usual practice is to give the incoming governor at least a couple of days to get settled in before the ceremony.
Beshear pressed on with his agenda, however, and signed an executive order Thursday restoring voting rights to more than 140,000 people with felony convictions.