Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s avalanche of pardons after he lost his re-election campaign has caught the eye of the FBI, The Louisville Courier-Journal reports.
Bevin pardoned more than 650 people after losing his re-election bid. Several of the pardons drew mass condemnation.
Bevin pardoned Patrick Baker, a convicted killer who served just two years of his 19-year sentence, even though the judge in the case said he had “never seen a more compelling or complete case.”
The pardon came after Baker’s brother hosted a fundraiser for Bevin last year that raised $21,500.
Bevin also pardoned a man convicted just last year of raping a 9-year-old girl.
Bevin argued that the girl’s hymen was intact, which medical experts called a debunked medical claim that proves nothing.
“He's not only doesn’t know the law, in my humble opinion, he clearly doesn’t know medicine and anatomy,” former Kentucky chief medical examiner Dr. George Nichols told the outlet.
FBI launches probe:
Top Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell called the pardons “inappropriate” while both Republican and Democratic Senate leaders called for a federal investigation into the pardons.
The Courier-Journal reports that at state Sen. Chris Harris was contacted by the FBI about the pardons.
"The impression I got is that there was an investigation ramping up,” Harris told the outlet. "It may be a formal investigation or it may not be a formal investigation. It may be just calling to see if there’s anything there to warrant a full investigation. ... I can tell you, at least, there are questions being asked.”
"It's clear there was political favoritism involved in these pardons," top Senate Democrat Morgan McGarvey added. "We have got to find out if the pardon power was abused and possibly sold to restore the public's trust in the system."
Advocates praise the other pardons:
Despite some controversial pardons, most of the pardons were welcomed by criminal justice advocates.
The New York Times noted that “more than half of those that he granted clemency were low-level offenders released from overcrowded jails and prisons as part of a planned mass commutation.”
“While Bevin’s motivation remains unclear, the idea that the great moral tragedy of our time is that not enough people are in Kentucky prisons runs counter to everything we know about incarceration,” wrote The Appeal’s Adam H. Johnson. “At 869 people per 100,000, Kentucky’s incarceration rate is 24 percent greater than the average in the U.S.”
“Unfortunately, we live in a media culture where headlines matter as much if not more than the article itself. The hysteria around Bevin’s pardons contributes to what I’ve previously referred to as ‘Willie Hortonism’—stories framed by misguided moral outrage that paints politicians who engage in prison reform as pro-child murder, pro-rape and, more or less, super happy with mayhem and death,” he added. “Such coverage creates a disincentive for politicians across the political spectrum to release people from prison because that’s the only sure-fire inoculation against exactly the kind of sensationalist press coverage that Bevin is receiving.