Kentucky Politics

A man pardoned by former Gov. Matt Bevin for a 2014 murder has been indicted on federal charges related to the same incident.

Court records unsealed on Monday show federal prosecutors have charged Patrick Baker with murder committed during a drug trafficking-related robbery and kidnapping. Baker had already been convicted of reckless homicide charges in Laurel County Circuit Court stemming from that same incident, but he received a pardon from Bevin in 2019 after serving two years of a 19-year sentence.

The pardon drew outrage from prosecutors who said evidence showed Baker was guilty.

Bevin’s actions also drew scrutiny because Baker’s family held a campaign fundraiser for the then-governor the year before the pardon was issued.

But now, according to the indictment issued last week, prosecutors are reviving the case in federal court, alleging Baker shot and killed Donald Mills during a home invasion on May 9, 2014.

Laurel County Jail

Patrick Baker at Laurel County Jail

“Patrick Baker willfully, deliberately, maliciously, and with premeditation and malice aforethought[…] did unlawfully cause the death of Donald Mills through the use of a firearm,” the indictment states.

According to prosecutors from Laurel County, Baker and two others pretended they were police officers and forced their way into Mills’ Knox County home in 2014. Baker fatally shot Mills and was convicted in 2017 of homicide, robbery and impersonating a police officer.

Bevin pardoned Baker during his final days in office in 2019. The other two men did not get pardons and are still serving time for manslaughter and robbery.

The pardon was one of 428 Bevin issued during his final days in office, some of which drew outrage from prosecutors and victims’ advocates. The cases included a man convicted of beheading a woman, one who raped a 9-year-old girl and one who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old boy.

In his pardon letter, Bevin argued Baker’s conviction was “sketchy at best” and said he wasn’t convinced evidence from the case showed Baker committed murder.

The pardon came a year after Baker’s brother and sister-in-law held a campaign fundraiser for Bevin in their home, raising $21,500 and personally donating $4,000 to help pay off debt from Bevin’s 2015 campaign.

Bevin defended the pardon by raising questions about police involved in the case. During a 2019 interview on WHAS, he said “law enforcement that was involved in that should be very nervous right now because, I’ll tell you what, not everything is kosher with respect to how that all went down.”

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.