Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, defended his controversial pardon of a convicted child rapist by claiming that the 9-year-old victim’s hymen was “intact,” which experts say medically proves nothing.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Bevin issued 428 pardons and commutations after he lost to Democrat Andy Beshear last month, the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Joe Sonka reported. The pardons included convicted killer Patrick Baker, whose brother hosted a fundraiser for Bevin, and Micah Schoettle, who was convicted just last year of raping a 9-year-old girl and just began his 23-year prison sentence.
Bevin claimed that Baker made a “series of unwise decisions in his adult life” but the evidence against him was “sketchy at best.” But the judge that sentenced Baker said that in three decades in practice he had “never seen a more compelling or complete case… the evidence was just overwhelming.”
Bevin claimed that he pardoned Schoettle because his conviction was “based only on testimony that was not supported by any physical evidence.” Rob Sanders, the prosecutor who convicted Schoettle, ripped Bevin over the move.
“So, I guess Matt Bevin thinks he’s smarter than the 12 citizens that heard the actual evidence,” Sanders told Sonka. “I’ve got news for him: Child molesting rarely happens in front of witnesses or leaves physical evidence. If we didn’t pursue those cases, 99% of child rapists would never be prosecuted.”
Bevin’s Republican colleagues were furious with the pardons. Republican Senate President Robert Stivers called for federal prosecutors to investigate the pardons. US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that he did not “approve” of the pardons.
"It seems to me it was completely inappropriate,” McConnell said earlier this month. “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."
Two Democratic lawmakers called for the incoming attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Bevin’s pardons.
Bevin argued in a lengthy Twitter thread that pardons are “never an exact science.”
"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 wrote. "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."
Bevin later told Sonka that he would welcome a federal investigation into the pardons, arguing that the prosecutors who criticized his pardons would be the ones that may end up being prosecuted over the cases.
"You will see people subpoenaed, you will see people deposed, you will see people convicted," he said. "If the truth comes out, there will be people involved in this process on the other side of the equation that have very good reason to be very concerned right now. And some of them are the loudest people right now, and for good reason."
Schoettle was not the only child rapist who drew leniency form Bevin. He also pardoned Paul Donel Hurt, who was serving a life sentence for sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl two decades ago.
Asked during a radio interview on Thursday why he chose to pardon a child rapist, Bevin responded, “which one?”
“There were a couple of people that were accused of that whose sentences I commuted," he said, according to the Courier-Journal.
Bevin defended his pardon of Schoettle by claiming that there was “zero evidence” in the case.
Bevin said the victim’s sister was present during the alleged assaults.
"Both their hymens were intact,” Bevin said. “This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me. If you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.”
Experts rejected Bevin’s medically wrong claim.
Dr. George Nichols, the longtime former Kentucky chief medical examiner, told The Courier-Journal that “rape is not proved by hymen penetration.”
“Rape is proved by phallic penetration ... where the vaginal lips meet the outer surface of the vagina,” he said. “He's not only doesn’t know the law, in my humble opinion, he clearly doesn’t know medicine and anatomy.”
Nichols added that he had worked for six governors but he felt fortunate that he “didn’t have to report to that a**hole.”
The journal Forensic Science International also found that only about 2 percent of child rape victims had visible lesions on the hymen.
Sanders, the prosecutor in the case, blasted Bevin as “ignorant on the medicine and science in child rape cases.”
“Even the defense experts testified they would not expect to find an injury in the victim’s sexual assault exam,” he told the Courier-Journal. “This was the subject of an eight-hour court hearing Matt Bevin obviously never watched.”
Bevin’s pardon allowed Schoettle to walk free after serving just 19 months in prison. Schoettle will also not be required to register as a sex offender.
The mother of Schoettle’s victim told WCPO that she was working to get an emergency protective order and considering moving to a different part of the country after the pardon, which she called a “slap in the face.”
"It feels like we're going through it all over again ... we just got to the point where we felt safe leaving the house and not looking over our shoulders," she told the outlet.
"[Bevin has] met my daughter, and now he's saying that my daughter is a liar ... Shame on him. Shame on him," she added, noting that the former governor put others at risk as well. "Now that he got away with it, who's to say what he's going to do to another child?"