Kentucky killer pardoned by governor months after his family raised over $20,000 for reelection campaign is convicted of same murder in federal court
Patrick Baker, 43, was pardoned by former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin as Bevin left office in 2019
Months earlier, Baker’s family raised over $21,000 for Bevin’s reelection
Baker was convicted on a state charge of reckless homicide when he killed Donald Mills, 29, during a home invasion drug robbery in 2014
After the pardon, federal prosecutors brought charges for the same murder which was possible because it’s not double jeopardy since the charges were brought by different levels of prosecutors
The ‘dual sovereignty doctrine’ allows state and federal officials to prosecute the same defendant for the same actions
Baker could face up to life in prison, after prosecutors decided against seeking the death penalty
He was jailed 19 years in 2017, but Bevin’s pardon erased the conviction and sentence
Before commencement of the federal trial the judge ruled that details of the pardon were not admissible as evidence
Baker’s lawyer said they will appeal the guilty verdict
A killer pardoned by the former GOP governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, after his family raised funds for the lawmaker’s re-election campaign has been convicted of the same murder in a federal court.
After more than six hours of deliberation, over two days, an Eastern Kentucky jury Wednesday found Patrick Baker guilty on a federal charge of murdering a drug dealer during a robbery seven years ago.
Baker, 43, was pardoned by then Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin in 2019, months after the Republican lost his bid to be re-elected for a second term in office.
Baker killed Donald Mills, a known drug dealer, during a dispute in 2014, prosecutors said. Baker’s defense however, has maintained that a different man killed Mills and pushed the blame on their client.
Furthermore, Baker who is now convicted on federal charges did not have the shelter of double jeopardy laws banning a person from being tried for the same crime twice, because the 2017 conviction was on state charges.
The ‘dual sovereignty doctrine’ allows state and federal officials to prosecute the same defendant for the same actions without infringing on double jeopardy protections.
Baker’s lawyer, Louisville attorney Steve Romines, said he would appeal.
‘We felt there was evidence that should have been admitted that was not,’ he said in a post conviction interview.
Baker’s release from prison in 2019 came just months after Gov. Matt Bevin’s unsuccessful run for a second term, which Baker’s family raised $21,500 for donated thousands more, the Courier Journal reported.
The murderer’s brother and and sister-in-law also gave $4,000 to Bevin’s campaign on the day of the fundraiser. Baker said his family’s donations and ties to the governor had no impact on Bevin’s decision to pardoned Baker on his way out the door in 2019.
Bevin called the evidence against Baker ‘sketchy,’ though the former governor did not mention his ties to Baker’s family.
He also claimed Baker’s ‘drug addictions’ had led him to fall in with the wrong people, and further muddied the waters of the case against him.
He pardoned Baker despite the Kentucky Court of Appeals upholding Baker’s conviction in 2018, a year before his release. In a unanimous ruling, the justices wrote that ‘there can be no doubt, on review of the proof as a whole, evidence of Baker’s guilt was overwhelming.’
During his final month of office, Bevin pardoned or commuted the sentences of 428 people, including 336 mostly white drug offenders.
He also pardoned prisoners convicted of serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, and rape.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers has since called for the US Attorney’s Office to investigate the spate of pardons
In the trial’s opening arguments federal prosecutors said Baker killed Mills, a 29-year-old drug dealer in Knox County, in 2014 while trying to rob him of cash and pain pills.
Baker targeted the drug dealer because he thought the man wouldn’t be able to report the robbery, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna Reed said.
Reed said Baker knew Mills had pills at his house, and bought plastic handcuffs at a store before invading the drug dealer’s home.
Baker, said he did not kill Mills and said his family “did not pay for my release” from prison.
After Wednesday’s guilty verdict, U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom said, ‘At its core, this case was about one thing: Patrick Baker´s role in the death of Donald Mills.
Having heard the evidence, the jury found him guilty.’
Prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty, but Baker could serve life in prison on the conviction.
Sentencing is scheduled for December.
He was convicted of reckless homicide in Mills’ death in state court in 2017 while posing as a federal agent trying to rob him of cash and pain pills. Mills’ pregnant wife and children were held at gunpoint while Baker ransacked the victims’ home for oxycodone pills, according to the U.S. Attorney.
Evidence at the trial including shell casings tied to Baker’s pistol and surveillance video showing Baker buying handcuff restraints hours before the killing.
He was sentenced to 19 years in prison, but Bevin’s pardon released him and erased the conviction.