Frankfort, KY – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is looking into the more than 650 pardons and commutations that former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin issued in his last act as governor after allegations surfaced that some had been given as favors to his campaign donors.
Bevin, a Republican, lost his re-election bid in November and Democrat Andy Beshear was sworn in as governor on Dec. 10.
While a majority of the pardons that the former governor issued were to low-level drug offenders, several violent offenders were also on his list, including convicted murderers and rapists, according to the Courier-Journal.
Democratic Kentucky State Representative Chris Harris said that he had been contacted by criminal investigators.
"I can confirm that I have been contacted by someone looking into the pardons that were issued by Gov. Bevin on his way out the door," Harris said. "The impression I got is that there was an investigation ramping up."
Although the FBI would not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation, two other sources told the Courier-Journal that the investigator who had spoken with Harris was from the FBI.
"It may be a formal investigation or it may not be a formal investigation," Harris said. "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.”
State prosecutors have condemned Bevin’s pardons and questioned whether there was corruption involved in the former governor’s decision-making, MSNBC reported.
In the most egregious example, Bevin pardoned Patrick Brian Baker, who had only served two years of a 19-year sentence for reckless homicide and robbery convictions.
Baker participated in the 2014 killing of a Knox County man in front of his wife, the Courier-Journal reported.
Prosecutors said that Baker and another man posed as police officers to gain entry to a home for the purposes of a robbery and then fatally shot Donald Mills in front of his wife, NBC News reported.
The Courier-Journal reported that Baker’s brother hosted a campaign fundraiser for the governor’s re-election campaign in July of 2018 and raised $21,500 for Bevin’s campaign coffers.
Terry Forcht, a GOP mega-donor in Kentucky, also reached out to Bevin on Baker’s behalf and urged the then-governor to pardon the convicted murderer.
Forcht has given more than $100,000 to Bevin’s past campaigns and inaugurals, according to the Courier-Journal.
Baker held a press conference after he was pardoned and claimed the state police had framed him.
Former Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rick Sanders told the Courier-Journal that an internal investigation had determined that "Baker was, in fact, guilty in that case" and he had told Bevin that.
Republican State Senate President Robert Stivers has called for an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Bevin also pardoned a convicted child rapist named Micah Schoettle, NBC News reported.
Schoettle was convicted of rape, sodomy, and other sexual crimes against a nine-year-old girl.
Bevin defended the controversial pardon by saying the case “was investigated and prosecuted in a manner that was sloppy at best,” the Courier-Journal reported.
He said that victim could not have been raped because her sister, who was also allegedly a victim, denied that it happened, NBC News reported.
“These girls both were examined medically. They were examined physically. There was zero evidence. Zero. Both their hymens were intact," Bevin said. "This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me, if you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically."
Medical experts and victims’ advocates disputed Bevin’s assertions.
But like Baker, Schoettle also had political connections to the former governor, NBC News reported.
Schoettle’s mother, Deborah Jo Durr, served on the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission from 2009 to 2017, the Courier-Journal reported.
His stepfather, now deceased, was R.C. Durr, the co-founder of the Bank of Kentucky and a prominent philanthropist, NBC News reported.
Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders has already begun an investigation into Bevin’s pardon of the convicted child rapist.
Sanders said he has already requested a copy of the pardon file from the newly-installed governor, according to NBC News.