Attorney General Daniel Cameron wrote of his intention to contact the FBI in a Monday letter to two Kentucky Democratic legislators who’d called for a probe, state Rep. Chris Harris and state Sen. Morgan McGarvey.
At issue are scores of pardons and 419 commutations of sentences that Bevin, a Republican, filed as he left office last month following his failed re-election bid in November.
“While Kentucky’s constitution gives the governor the power to pardon a person convicted of a crime, I believe the pardon power should be used sparingly and only after great deliberation with due concern for public safety,” Cameron, a Republican, wrote in his letter.
“After taking office, I discussed this matter with some of our law enforcement partners. After this discussion, I decided to send a formal request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate this matter.”
Harris revealed the letter in a tweet on Thursday.
Pardon of a reckless homicide conviction has received particular scrutiny
Bevin has denied accusations that some of the pardons were political.
One case prominently mentioned by critics is the pardon and sentence commutation for Patrick Baker, who was convicted of reckless homicide in 2017.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Baker’s family had held a fundraiser and donated to Bevin’s gubernatorial campaigns. Baker served two years of a 19-year sentence, while his co-defendants are still in prison, the newspaper reported.
In a statement Thursday, Harris and McGarvey thanked Cameron for requesting an FBI investigation and mentioned Baker’s case as one of the pardons that needs to be checked.
“A governor may have broad pardoning powers, but there must be further scrutiny by law enforcement when there is an appearance of impropriety or corruption,” the legislators said.
Bevin has defended the pardons
CNN has sought comment from Bevin about the pardons but has not heard back. CNN also has requested comment from the FBI’s Louisville office, which covers Kentucky.
In a series of tweets on December 13, Bevin denied allegations that he took politics into account.
“The myriad statements and suggestions that financial or political considerations played a part in the decision making process, are both highly offensive and entirely false. To repeat such uncorroborated rumors and lies is reprehensible,” he said.
Critics also have raised concerns over some of the pardons and commutations for people convicted of violent offenses, including murder and rape.
In his tweets, Bevin also said he personally had reviewed each case and calling questions about “the motives and involvement of anyone else in the administration is highly inappropriate and irresponsible.”
“Not one person receiving a pardon would I not welcome as a co-worker, neighbor, or to sit beside me or any member of my family in a church pew or at a public event,” he tweeted. Bevin added, “No community is either more or less safe now, than it was before the pardons and commutations given over the past four years.”
The sentence commutations included those for 336 people who were serving sentences solely for drug-related charges. A number of the pardons also were for drug-related convictions.