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Bevin's Pardons of Killers, Rapist, Prompt Kenton Senator's Proposed Legislation

As Governor Matt Bevin prepared to leave office, he issued pardons or sentence commutations to convicted killers, a child rapist, and others, including some from Northern Kentucky.

The moves left Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Rob Sanders seemingly exasperated and prompted State Senator Chris McDanidel (R-Taylor Mill) to propose legislative change in the form of a constitutional amendment impacting the pardon process.

Among those who received the pardons issued by Bevin are Micah Schoettle, convicted in 2018 of raping a 9-year old child in Kenton County. He received a sentence of 23 years in prison.

The death sentence of Gregory Wilson, who raped and killed a Northern Kentucky woman, and was convicted 32 years ago. His sentence was changed to life and is immediately eligible for parole.

"I don't know if I could be any angrier right now. Not just this case, but the dozens of other cases I’m hearing about from all over Kentucky,” Sanders said, as reported by WKRC-TV.

J.R. Roth, from Campbell County, was also pardoned after being convicted two years ago on drug trafficking charges. (Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified J.R. Roth as someone else. RCN regrets the error.)

Other violent criminals from around the state received good news from Bevin as the governor was on his way out. Bevin, a Republican, was defeated in his reelection bid on November 5 by around 5,000 votes. Democrat Andy Beshear was sworn in as governor on Tuesday.

“I’m a big believer in second chances,” Bevin told The Washington Post. “I think this is a nation that was founded on the concept of redemption and second chances, and new pages in life.”

“If there has been a change and there’s no further value that comes for the individual, for society, for the victims, for anybody, if a person continues to stay in,” Bevin said, “then that’s when somebody should be considered for a commutation or a pardon.”

The Courier-Journal published this week an in-depth look at Bevin's decisions related to 428 pardons issued as he left office. The journalists behind that story, Joe Sonka and Andrew Wolfson join RCN publisher Michael Monks, who also hosts WVXU's Cincinnati Edition live on the show Friday at noon to talk about Bevin's decisions. 

Senator McDaniel announced his proposed amendment on Thursday. The legislation is currently being drafted, McDaniel told The River City News.

“It is clear from the events at the end of the Bevin administration that reform is needed to the power of a governor to pardon and commute sentences," McDaniel said in a statement. "I will be introducing a constitutional amendment in the 2020 Legislative Session that will eliminate those powers for the month leading up to an election and for the time between an election and a swearing in of a new governor. If a governor wants to use the power to commute and pardon, he should be willing to stand in front of the voters and be held accountable for those actions.”

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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