Why Did Former Governor Matt Bevin Pardon Violent Criminals?

Former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin left the governor’s mansion on Tuesday, December 10, 2019, but left office with a controversial set of actions.

Bevin, who lost his re-election campaign for a second term by a razor thin margin, issued pardons to hundreds of individuals including convicted rapists, murderers, and drug offenders according to NPR.

One case featured Bevin pardoning a man convicted of homicide. The convict’s family raised more than $20,000 at a political fundraiser to help pay off a debt incurred from his 2015 gubernatorial campaign.

According to The Courier-Journal, the former governor approved 428 pardons and commutations since his loss to Democrat Andy Beshear, according to a report from The Courier-Journal. The paper points out that, “The beneficiaries include one offender convicted of raping a child, another who hired a hit man to kill his business partner and a third who killed his parents.”

Bevin’s controversial decisions have been met with great shock and criticism from many throughout the Bluegrass state.

Twitter user Josh Trosper criticized the governor in a tweet: “I guess you can snap pics when you don’t have the time to look families (or voters) in the face and tell them you pardoned murderers and rapists.”

Rob Sanders, the Kenton County commonwealth’s attorney, informed The Cincinnati Enquirer that he had supported Bevin but the pardons changed his mind.

“I was somebody who supported him and believed in him and I’m disgusted at myself for having done so,” Sanders commented about Bevin in a statement to the Enquirer.

The one pardon that got Sanders angry was that of Micah Schoettle, a 41-year-old convicted of raping a 9-year-old child last year. According to the Courier-Journal, he was given a 23-year-prison sentence.

In the pardon order, Bevin wrote, “Micah Schoettle was tried and convicted of a heinous crime based only on testimony that was not supported by any physical evidence.”

He added: “This case was investigated and prosecuted in a manner that was sloppy at best. I do not believe that the charges against Mr. Schoettle are true.”

Bevin ended up commuting Schoettle’s sentence to time served and ordered a complete and unconditional pardon.

One of Bevin’s other pardons was that of Patrick Brian Baker, who received a murder conviction in 2017 and was also convicted of tampering with physical evidence.

As the Courier-Journal also reports, Baker’s family “raised $21,500 at a political fundraiser last year to retire debt from Bevin’s 2015 gubernatorial campaign.” In addition, the paper reported that Baker’s brother and sister-in-law contributed $4,000 to the Bevin campaign.

“Patrick Baker is a man who has made a series of unwise decisions in his adult life,” Bevin wrote in his pardon letter on December 6, 2019.  Bevin noted that evidence in his conviction was “sketchy at best.”

“I am not convinced that justice has been served in the death of Donald Mills, nor am I convinced that the evidence has proven the involvement of Patrick Baker as murderer,” Bevin stated.

Baker was sentenced to 19 years, but served only two years. He received a commuted sentence of time served and received a pardon only for the charges connected to the conviction.

The current Kentucky governor, Andy Beshear spoke on December 13, 2019 with NPR and WBUR’s Here & Now about his decision to restore voting rights to 140,000 nonviolent offenders who have finished their prison sentences.

Although he didn’t refer to the case by name, Beshear referred to the pardon of Dayton Ross Jones, who pleaded guilty to the sexual assault of a 15-year-old male. The criminal act was featured on video and shared on social media, according to the Kentucky New Era.  Jones was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016.

While he didn’t refer to the case by name, Beshear mentioned the pardon of Dayton Ross Jones, who pleaded guilty to the 2014 sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy. The act was captured on video and shared on social media, according to the Kentucky New Era, and Jones was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2016.

“A young man was attacked, was violated, it was filmed, it was sent out to different people at his school,” Beshear stated. “It was one of the worst crimes that we have seen.”

Kentucky’s attorney general’s office, which Beshear was the previous head of, prosecuted the case.

“I fully disagree with that pardon,” Beshear said. “It is a shame and its wrong.”

Bevin provided no explanation to why he pardoned Jones and commuted his sentence to time served.

While criminal justice reform may have some merit for genuinely non-violent crimes such as drug possession or people breaking arbitrary government regulations, the current policies being pursued by some Republican leaders are potentially opening the floodgates for otherwise dangerous criminals to get back out on the streets when they should still be locked up.

As Governor, Matt Bevin was quite solid on issues like abortion and gun rights. But on the matter of criminal pardons, he should have known better.

Republicans would be wise to not follow in his footsteps.

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