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Ex-Gov. Matt Bevin defends flurry of pardons as Kentucky lawmakers call for investigation

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin attacked the “highly offensive and entirely false” reports that financial or political considerations played a part in his pardon decision-making in a blast of 20 tweets late Friday afternoon.

And he defended the methodology behind his 11th-hour flurry of pardons, tweeting that his decisions came after he read hundreds of pages of court records and spent hundreds of hours reading applications and files.

“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.”

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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.

The former governor’s lengthy Twitter defense Friday afternoon came shortly after fellow Republican state Senate President Robert Stivers called for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate the pardons.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the commonwealth’s most powerful Republican, also didn’t have kind words for Bevin’s actions.

“Honestly, I don’t approve,” he said Friday in Frankfort.

“It seems to me it was completely inappropriate. I expect he has the power to do it, but looking at the examples of people who were incarcerated as the result of heinous crimes, no, I don’t approve of them.”

Earlier Friday, two Democratic lawmakers called on Attorney General-elect Daniel Cameron to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing involving Bevin’s pardon of Patrick Brian Baker.

Baker, convicted of homicide and sentenced to 19 years in 2017 for his involvement in the killing of Donald Mills during a Knox County home invasion and robbery, was pardoned by Bevin after Baker’s family members hosted a political fundraiser for Bevin and made political donations.

As The Courier Journal first reported, Baker’s brother and sister-in-law hosted Bevin at their Corbin home last year, netting $21,500 for Bevin to retire debt from his 2015 gubernatorial campaign, including $5,000 from the family.

“This reeks of political favoritism,” said Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat. “We can’t have that. People need to trust our system of government and (that) our officials are doing the right thing.”

In his defense, Bevin said that pardons and commutations are “never an exact science.”

But when it is not possible to guarantee more justice for victims or more rehabilitation for offenders, he said, it is “reasonable for a person to be considered for either a commutation or a pardon.”

Bevin’s campaign manager distanced himself from his former boss earlier Friday in a statement that said he had no knowledge of the pardons issued during the governor’s last weeks in office.

“My prayers are with the families that have been impacted by these decisions,” Davis Paine told The Courier Journal.

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