LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin defended his controversial pardon of a man who was convicted of raping a child, saying there was no physical evidence of an assault.
Bevin's comments sparked a flurry of harsh criticism from medical and law enforcement officials.
Micah Schoettle was in the second year of a 23-year prison sentence when Bevin pardoned him of rape, sodomy and other sexual crimes last week. Rob Sanders, the prosecutor who put Schoettle away, called the pardon a “completely classless move.”
Bevin defended the Schoettle pardon in a radio interview Thursday, saying there was no physical evidence of rape in the case.
"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," Bevin said in the WHAS radio interview. “There was zero evidence of that.”
Bevin also publicly revealed the child's relationship to Schoettle for the first time, Sanders said.
“Just as offensive are all of his ignorant statements that he made about physical injury in assault cases,” said Sanders, who heads the Commonwealth's Attorney's office in Kenton County, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.
“He obviously did not do any research on this matter or he would know that only 2 percent of sexual assault victims show any visible physical injury as a result of the rapes that they’ve suffered," Sanders, a Republican, said in an interview Friday. "This is the kind of foolish ignorance that prosecutors have been working for decades to overcome."
Bevin, a Republican, issued hundreds of pardons between his electoral defeat on Nov. 5 and his final day in office on Dec. 9. Several have stirred controversy, including his pardon of Patrick Baker, a man convicted of homicide and other crimes whose family held a fundraiser for Bevin last year.
Two other people charged alongside Baker in the slaying of Donald Mills remain in prison.
Sanders has launched an investigation into Schoettle's pardon and whether his family's wealth and political connections played a role in it. Schoettle's mother was married to R.C. Durr, a wealthy road contractor and property owner whose family now runs a multimillion-dollar charitable foundation. Durr died in 2007.
Kentucky's former chief medical examiner Dr. George Nichols criticized Bevin's comments on the Schoettle pardon in an interview with the Courier Journal, saying the statements were factually inaccurate.
“He not only doesn’t know the law, in my humble opinion, he clearly doesn’t know medicine and anatomy,” Nichols said.
In defending the pardon, the former governor also said another child who was said to be present during the alleged assaults denied they took place.
Bevin has drawn scorn before for expressing his opinions on child sexual assault. In an April 2018 interview while public school teachers were striking at the capitol, Bevin said hundreds of thousands of children were left home alone because of school cancellations.
“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,” then-Gov. Bevin said. The comment by Bevin was used in political attack ads against him during this year's campaign for governor. Bevin lost to Democrat Andy Beshear by about 5,000 votes.