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Senate President: Kentucky Senate Majority calls for investigation into Bevin pardons

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Posted at 4:27 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-14 06:40:12-05

(LEX 18) — According to a statement from Senate President Robert Stivers (R), on behalf of the Kentucky Senate Majority, officials are calling for the U.S. Attorney's Office to launch an investigation into former Gov. Matt Bevin's pardons.

In his final acts as governor, Bevin pardoned, or commuted the sentences of, hundreds of people, including some convicted of homicide.

Stivers released the following statement, "From what we know of former Gov. Bevin’s extreme pardons and commutations, the Senate Republican Majority condemns his actions as a travesty and perversion of justice. Our citizens, and especially the crime victims and their families, deserve better. We support the gathering of facts and call upon the U.S. Attorney’s office to launch an investigation into former Gov. Bevin’s pardons.”

One of the people pardoned was Kurt Smith, who was convicted of killing his six-week-old son Blake. Smith was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years. He was also charged with rioting and accused of hitting a corrections guard over the head with a rock during the Northpoint Prison Riots in 2009.

"He might be letting one family celebrate that a son got to go home today, but I'll be mourning the loss of my son for 18 years and that will never stop," Blake's mother, Jessica Rudenis, told LEX 18.

Melinda Mills told LEX 18 that it was on Facebook where she learned the man convicted in the shooting death of her brother would be released. Patrick Baker was convicted of reckless homicide and impersonating a peace officer in connection with the death of Donald Mills. Patrick Baker's brother hosted a campaign fundraiser for Bevin in the summer of 2018 where more than $20,000 was raised, according to the Courier-Journal.

In his pardon for Baker, Bevin said the evidence in the case was, "sketchy at best."

"We all know what evidence was presented," Melinda Mills said. "It was not 'sketchy at best.'"

On Friday, Senate Democratic Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey (D) and Representative Chris Harris (D), stated that both Democrats and Republicans were upset about several of the former governor's pardons, saying that they want answers. They're particularly interested in the pardon of Baker. When the two were asked what criminal statutes could impede on the governor's constitutional right to pardon, they cited the Hobbs Act.

They are asking Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron to appoint a bipartisan prosecution team to investigate some of the pardons. The lawmakers also stated that they will accept the findings and they acknowledged many of the pardons were legitimate.

Cameron responded to the pardons, saying, "The pardon power was one of the most hotly contested powers during Kentucky’s Constitutional Convention. Ultimately, our framers decided to give the Governor the sole power to pardon a person convicted of any crime, save impeachment, and the provision has remained unchanged for almost 130 years. Kentucky’s prosecutors do an outstanding job of bringing to justice those individuals who have committed a crime, and I stand by these prosecutors. I also respect the decisions of juries who convict wrongdoers. That is why I believe the pardon power should be used sparingly and only after great deliberation with due regard to public safety. I look forward to assuming the responsibilities of the Office of the Attorney General on Tuesday, Dec. 17."

After filing for re-election, Sen. Mitch McConnell was asked what he thought about the pardons. He responded, "Honestly, I don't approve. It seems to me it was completely inappropriate. I expect he had the power to do it but but looking at the examples of people who are incarcerated as a result of heinous crimes, no, I don't approve of it."

Two Louisville activists, Christoper 2X and Amanda Hall, received pardons from Bevin in honor of their work in the community.