Former Republican Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin was in a generous mood right before he left office last week. He ended up pardoning more than 400 convicted felons.
Many of them were convicted of low-level drug crimes. But a few of them raised some eyebrows.
The more than 400 pardons and commutations, issued after his loss in November to Democrat Andy Beshear, included low-level drug offenders, as well as a man who was convicted of raping a 9-year-old in Kenton County, another who hired a hit man to kill his business partner, a man who killed his parents and a man who beheaded a woman before stuffing her in a barrel.
There have been calls from Democrats and Republicans for an investigation with some lawmakers asking the incoming attorney general, Daniel Cameron, to appoint a special prosecutor.
Recall that Bill Clinton pardoned prominent Democratic donor Marc Rich, but he was only guilty of tax fraud. Not even President Clinton would have been this bold.
Among those were Patrick Baker, who had been sentenced to 19 years in jail in 2017 after he impersonated a police officer to force his way into a home, then shot a man inside.
In 2018, Baker’s family hosted a fundraising event for Mr Bevin, which scooped $21,500 for the governor. Baker’s brother and sister-in-law also personally donated a further $4,000 to Mr Bevin’s ultimately unsuccessful re-election campaign.
The state prosecutor who led the effort to convict Baker for the fatal 2014 home invasion said it would an “understatement to say I am aggrieved” by the pardon.
Bevin was very matter-of-fact in his defense.
“Each case had its own set of facts, evidence, lack of evidence, supporting documents, reasons and unique details, most of which the arm-chair critics are not aware of,” he said.
“Am I perfect? No… Never have been… But I did my very best, over many hours, days, weeks and years, to reach fair and just decisions.”
Would you welcome the guy who beheaded his wife and stuffed her in a duffel bag as a “co-worker or neighbor?”
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…
— Matt Bevin (@MattBevin) December 13, 2019
Not likely to see a lot of those felons sitting in a church pew next to the governor, but a “public event” like a fundraiser for Bevin? That’s possible.
I don’t know how you can prove a quid pro quo. They couldn’t prove that Clinton pardoned Marc Rich for political reasons so I doubt they’ll get Bevin on this. But I think it speaks more to the moral qualities of our recent leaders that they would so brazenly thumb their nose at the public and abuse the power of their office this way.