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A Kentucky man once convicted in state court of a 2014 home invasion murder and later pardoned by the governor was sentenced on federal charges in that case this week.
Patrick Baker, 43, was sentenced to 42 years behind bars by U.S. District Judge Claira Horn Boomon Tuesday in the drug-related shooting of 29-year-old Donald L. Mills Jr. — a federal charge.
Baker had been convicted of reckless homicide, robbery, impersonating a police officer and tampering with evidence by the state in 2017 but was pardoned in 2019 by outgoing Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin.
He was later arrested and charged by federal authorities with murder committed during a drug trafficking crime; a federal jury found him guilty in August 2021.
In May 2014, Baker fatally shot Mills after he and an accomplice forced entry into the Kentucky father’s Stinking Creek home, according to an indictment obtained by Oxygen.com. Baker and his accomplice gained entry to the home by posing as U.S. Marshals, federal prosecutors said, and then tore it apart in search of oxycodone pills. The accomplice held Mills’ pregnant wife and their children at gunpoint in one room, he testified; Baker shot Mills twice in the chest in another, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
Cell phone tower data and forensic evidence, including ballistics recovered from shell casings in Mills’ bedroom, implicated Baker in the murder. Authorities later found the gun used in the crime in a mud pit in Bell County. Surveillance footage also showed Baker buying plastic handcuffs at a London Dollar General hours before the fatal home invasion.
“The simple truth of this case is that Patrick Baker was found guilty of planning and committing an armed home invasion to acquire drugs, where he shot and killed Donald Mills,” Carlton S. Shier, IV, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, told Oxygen.com in a statement on Wednesday. “Baker was convicted of a brazen act of violence — one that resulted in a murder, committed while the victim’s family was nearby. I want to commend the dedicated work of all our law enforcement partners and our trial team. Their faithful efforts were critical to the verdict, conviction, and sentence.”
Bevin, who served as Kentucky’s 62nd governor, issued more than 400 pardons prior to leaving office in 2019. The decision, which sparked widespread criticism across the political spectrum, resulted in several lawmakers calling for an investigation into Bevin’s “pardon power.”
The FBI previously announced they would investigate a number of the former governor’s pardons — including Baker's, which allegedly occurred after his brother and sister-in-law held a fundraiser for Bevin, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. A spokesperson for the agency, however, declined to comment on the probe this week when contacted by Oxygen.com.
In Baker's federal criminal case, a presiding judge found that the separate sovereigns doctrine applied to his case, which allowed federal prosecutors to try him on different charges based the same acts that led to his state charges (and eventual pardon). The federal judge rejected Baker’s argument that retrying him amounted to double jeopardy, stating that Baker had provided no evidence that his Fifth Amendment rights were violated.
“Very basically, it states that the state government and federal government are separate sovereigns, each with their own laws and ability to prosecute,” a public affairs specialist for the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky told Oxygen.com.
Mills’ sentence includes credit for 30 months of time Baker previously served in state prison. He was also ordered to pay $7,500 for Mills’ funeral expenses.
On Tuesday, the case’s federal judge denied a motion from Baker’s attorneys on Tuesday to limit his sentence to a maximum of 19 years.
According to federal law, Baker must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence and will be subject to a three-year supervised release.
Baker’s legal team didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comments regarding the federal ruling on Wednesday.
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