Appeals court upholds federal conviction of pardoned man
LONDON, Ky. (AP) — An appeals court has upheld the conviction of a man pardoned by Kentucky’s former governor on state charges for a 2014 drug robbery killing but was later convicted for the same slaying in federal court.
A U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel released its ruling Thursday, deciding against Patrick Baker’s appeal on every point, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
Federal prosecutors brought charges against Baker after he was released from prison when former Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned him on his way out of office in 2019. Baker’s family had political connections to Bevin, including hosting a fundraiser for the one-term governor.
A federal jury in eastern Kentucky convicted Baker on a charge of murder committed during a drug trafficking crime and he was sentenced in 2022 to 42 years in prison.
Baker was convicted of reckless homicide in Donald Mills’ death in state court in 2017. He was sentenced to 19 years in prison, but Bevin’s pardon released him and erased the conviction. Bevin called the evidence against Baker “sketchy,” though the former governor did not mention his ties to Baker’s family.
Federal prosecutors said Baker was prosecuted the second time under the “dual sovereignty doctrine,” which allows state and federal officials to prosecute the same defendant for the same actions without infringing on double jeopardy protections.
Baker’s argument that the federal government’s decision to prosecute him was vindictive fell short, the appeals panel said. They cited the separate sovereign doctrine and said that federal prosecutors have broad discretion in decisions to charge people. They also pointed to new evidence in the case and rejected an argument from the defense that evidence wasn’t sufficient for a conviction.