Matt Bevin, the former governor of Kentucky who has been criticized for pardoning relatives of his supporters before leaving office, said on Thursday that he pardoned one convicted child rapist because he didn’t believe he was guilty—because the 9-year-old victim’s hymen was intact.
Asked about his decision to pardon 41-year-old Micah Schoettle, sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2018 on charges of rape, incest, and sodomy, Bevin cast doubt on the victim’s testimony. The victim said she had been abused over two years and accused Schoettle of raping her on multiple occasions when her sister was in the room.
“Both their hymens were intact,” he told the radio station WHAS. “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.”
This assertion, as medical experts have pointed out, is false. In one study the Courier-Journal cited, a survey of pediatric child rape cases found only 2.1 percent of the victims had visible damage to their hymen. Bevin, though, insisted: “There was zero evidence.” He asked a Courier-Journal reporter to ask the victim’s mother what really happened and “go get the facts.”
Bevin, who was defeated in his reelection bid by the Democrat Andy Beshear, made a flurry of pardons—nearly 430 of them—on his way out of office in December. Some of the cases were praised by criminal justice reformers. Others raised concerns. The Courier-Journal reported that Patrick Baker, who was convicted of homicide and pardoned by Bevin, was connected to major supporters of the governor—the man’s brother and sister-in-law raised $21,500 at a political fundraiser for Bevin. Separately, Terry Forcht, a major Republican donor, twice recommended to Bevin that Baker be pardoned. Bevin insisted that Baker was wrongly convicted.
It’s not Bevin’s first time making controversial statements about child safety: Bevin, a father of nine, harshly criticized public school teachers in the state for going on strike by suggesting they were abandoning children. “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin told reporters in April 2018. Bevin similarly blamed the teachers for the shooting of a 7-year-old-girl. He also made headlines when he said that school cancellations during the deadly polar vortex proved that America was “getting soft” and declared that he had intentionally exposed his children to chickenpox rather than vaccinate them. Bevin’s popularity plummeted during his dispute with the teachers, and it’s thought that his public fight with them contributed to his loss in 2018.
The commutation of Schoettle’s sentence—only a little more than a year into his sentence—means that Schoettle will not have to register as a sex offender, according to WCPO. The victim’s mother told the station that she was considering moving out of the area. “We just got to the point where we felt safe leaving the house and not looking over our shoulders,” she told WCPO. The attorney who prosecuted the case has launched an investigation into the pardons.