LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s new Republican attorney general has asked the FBI to investigate a flurry of pardons by former Gov. Matt Bevin.
The pardons have drawn criticism from both sides of the political aisle after media reports highlighted some that went to convicts who had wealthy or politically connected families.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron wrote in a letter Monday that he has sent a formal request to the FBI to “investigate this matter.”
“I believe the pardon power should be used sparingly and only after great deliberation with due concern for public safety,” Cameron wrote in the letter addressed to two Democratic state lawmakers, who shared the letter Thursday.
Bevin, a Republican, issued hundreds of pardons between his electoral defeat on Nov. 5 and his final day in office on Dec. 9. His pardons included clemency for convicted killer Patrick Baker, whose family held a fundraiser for Bevin in 2018, and a convicted sex offender whose mother was married to a millionaire road contractor.
The pardons also have attracted the attention of Russell Coleman, the U.S. attorney for Kentucky’s western district.
On Monday, Coleman said his office would review any pardon-related issues brought to them by state prosecutors or other law enforcement partners.
“I am particularly concerned about the risk to the public by those previously convicted of sex offenses, who by virtue of the state pardon, will not fall under any post-release supervision or be required to register as sex offenders,” Coleman said at a news conference.
Coleman was likely referring to the pardon of Micah Schoettle, who was in the second year of a 23-year prison sentence when Bevin pardoned him of rape, sodomy and other sexual crimes. The pardon also removed him from the state’s sex offender registry.
Bevin has said in defending the Schoettle pardon that there should have been physical evidence of rape and in his pardoning document he wrote the prosecution of the case was “sloppy at best.”
Cameron, who took office on Dec. 17, was responding to requests by two state lawmakers, Sen. Morgan McGarvey and Rep. Chris Harris, who were particularly concerned about the Baker case.
Baker was sentenced to 19 years in prison on convictions of reckless homicide and other crimes in a fatal 2014 home break-in in Knox County. Prosecutors say Baker and another man posed as police to gain entry to Donald Mills’ home and shot Mills in front of his wife. Bevin wrote in his pardoning order that Baker’s drug addictions led him to fall in with the wrong people and the evidence against Baker was “sketchy at best.”
The Courier Journal has reported that Baker’s family held a fundraiser at their home for Bevin in 2018 and another GOP donor who gave thousands to Bevin urged the former governor to pardon Baker.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals upheld Baker’s conviction a year ago, writing in a unanimous ruling that “Baker’s guilt was overwhelming.”