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Ex-Kentucky Gov. Defends Controversial Pardons For Child Rapist, Murderer

Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin defends pardoning and commuting sentences for more than 400 convicted people in his final days in office.
Timothy D. Easley
Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin defends pardoning and commuting sentences for more than 400 convicted people in his final days in office.

Former Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin drew widespread condemnation last week when reports highlighted that he had pardoned more than 400 convicted criminals in his final days in office. Bevin justified his actions by telling The Washington Post, "I'm a believer in second chances."

In a wide-ranging interview with Kentucky's WHAS on Thursday, Bevin offered a fresh defense for perhaps his most controversial pardon, that of Micah Schoettle, a 41-year-old man who was convicted of raping a 9-year-old last year.

Bevin's justification: There was no physical evidence of abuse and the girl's hymen was "intact."

"There was zero evidence of that. This man was convicted purely on something that there's no corroboration for," Bevin told host Terry Meiners.

The former governor said child rapists are "the absolute scum of the Earth" and added that Schoettle was accused of "repeatedly sexually assaulting her and her sister."

Bevin, the father of nine children, then noted: "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 had been repeatedly sexually violated, as a small child, by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically."

As NPR reported earlier this month, The Courier-Journal first reported that Bevin had pardoned 428 people, convicted of crimes that include rape, murder and drug offenses, following his loss in Kentucky's gubernatorial election to Democrat Andy Beshear in November.

The paper on Thursday spoke to Dr. George Nichols, who served as Kentucky's chief medical examiner for 20 years and is an expert at evaluating child abuse. He told the paper Bevin is categorically wrong in his assessment.

"Rape is not proved by hymen penetration," Nichols said. "Rape is proved by phallic penetration ...where the vaginal lips meet the outer surface of the vagina."

Nichols didn't stop there.

"[Bevin] not only doesn't know the law, in my humble opinion, he clearly doesn't know medicine and anatomy," he said, underscoring to The Courier Journal that in his career as medical examiner he had worked under six consecutive governors, adding, "and fortunately I didn't have to report to that asshole."

Bevin was asked about another contentious pardon, involving Patrick Brian Baker, who was convicted in 2017 of murdering Donald Mills and of other charges, including tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison.

The Courier-Journal reported Baker's family both donated to Bevin's campaign and also helped raise more than $21,000 to help Bevin retire campaign debt.

The paper also notes that Baker's case got the attention of wealthy GOP donor Terry Forcht, founder of the Kentucky-based Forcht Bank. The Courier Journal adds:

"The founder of Corbin-based Forcht Bank has given more than $1 million to Republican candidates, committees and super PACs over the past decade, state and federal campaign records show. 

"Letters show Forcht twice recommended Baker for a pardon and Bevin obliged, over the advice of former state Rep. Denny Butler, an investigator looking into Baker's case on Bevin's behalf, The Courier Journal previously reported."

Bevin pushed back on both these incidents during the WHAS interview.

On the issue of Baker's brother and sister-in-law donating to his campaign, he replied: "Whether somebody had a relative that gave money to a campaign, I've got campaign donations from tens of thousands of people," Bevin said. "I couldn't begin to know who's related to who."

Bevin praised Forcht's philanthropic efforts, calling him "one of the most generous people in Kentucky" before rhetorically asking, "why vilify a guy like that simply because he had an opinion of somebody who was incarcerated?"

Host Meiners challenged Bevin on the Baker case, telling the him, "There were other people involved in that crime and they weren't pardoned."

Bevin fired back: "Because they were actually involved in the killing. Patrick Baker was not."

That is contrary to evidence presented during the trial, The Courier-Journal reports, as prosecutors argued that Mills was shot and killed by Baker.

Meiners asked Bevin whether he would reconsider any of his pardons.

"Not one of them," Bevin replied.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.