LONDON, Ky. – A man pardoned by Kentucky's former governor for a 2014 drug robbery killing has been convicted for the same slaying in federal court after a two-week trial.
Federal prosecutors brought charges against Patrick 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 Wednesday on a charge of murder committed during a drug trafficking crime after about six hours of deliberation over two days.
U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom will sentence Baker, 43, on Dec. 21. Prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty, but Baker could serve life in prison on the conviction.
"At its core, this case was about one thing: Patrick Baker’s role in the death of Donald Mills," Carlton Shier, the acting U.S. Attorney for eastern Kentucky, said in a news release Wednesday. “Having heard the evidence, the jury found him guilty.”
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 lawyer, Louisville attorney Steve Romines, said he would appeal.
“We felt there was evidence that should have been admitted that was not,” he told the Courier Journal.
Prosecutors said Baker killed Mills, a drug dealer in Knox County, in 2014 while trying to rob Mills of cash and pain pills. Baker posed as a U.S. Marshal during the crime.
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.
Baker's release was one of a slew of pardons by Bevin at the end of his term that drew rebuke from both Democrats and Republicans.
Baker’s pardon was especially controversial, since his family had held a fundraiser for Bevin the year before, raising $21,500 for the Republican’s unsuccessful reelection campaign.