Pardoned man now facing federal charges remains in custody after objection to court's ruling

Patrick Baker

LONDON — A once pardoned Knox County native now facing a federal murder charge will remain in custody for the time being after prosecutors objected the court’s ruling that he be released until his trial.

Patrick Baker, 43, was set to be released following United States Magistrate Judge Hanly A. Ingram’s ruling Tuesday. Ingram made his decision after reviewing written arguments he ordered prosecutors and Baker’s defense team to submit during a detention hearing last Friday, June 4.

Baker was found guilty of reckless homicide, first-degree robbery, impersonating a peace officer and tampering with physical evidence by a Knox County jury in 2017 for his role in the 2014 shooting and killing of Donald Mills. Baker was originally indicted and charged with murder, but was found guilty of the lesser reckless homicide charge, an argument raised by Baker’s defense team during the June 4 detention hearing.

During that same hearing, Assistant United States Attorney Jenna E. Reed called on ATF Special Agent Todd Tremaine to testify. Tremaine’s testimony recapped a federal and state investigation following Mills’ death in 2014.

In his testimony, Tremaine explained that through investigation and witness testimony, it was found Baker had helped plan and executed a robbery of Mills’ home. Tremaine said Mills was a well-known drug dealer in the area. Tremaine went on to say Baker alongside Christopher Wagner armed themselves with guns, purchased plastic handcuffs, and acted as U.S. Marshals to enter Mills’ home. According to Tremaine’s testimony, Wagner took Mills’ wife and three juveniles into one section of the house while Baker took Mills into a separate area and demanded to know where the "money and dope" were. A commotion ensued, gunshots were fired, and Mills was killed.

Mills’ sister, Melinda Mills, also spoke during the June 4 hearing. On behalf of her family, Melinda asked that Baker remain in custody.

“The government’s proof persuasively illustrates the wisdom of the presumption and the broad concept of societal danger at stake,” Ingram wrote in his decision prior to the prosecution's objection. “For purposes only of the release-detention analysis, Tremaine’s testimony shows the charge is well-supported.”

Along with the fact Baker was originally convicted of a lesser charge, Baker’s lawyers argued that during his previous trial, Baker was released on bond for more than three years with no violations.

“In the Court’s view, a defendant’s compliance or non-compliance with court-ordered conditions of release is the most probative evidence of predicted future compliance,” wrote Ingram. “Baker’s record under strict conditions for several years favors expecting more of the same.”

Baker served two years of a 19-year sentence as a result of being pardoned in December 2019 by then-Governor Matt Bevin during the final days of Bevin’s tenure in office. In his decision, Judge Ingram states that prosecutors failed to include proof of any misconduct or misbehavior on Baker’s behalf since his release.

“Without such proof, the Court assesses the risk of dangerous pre-trial recidivism to be reasonably manageable,” the judge wrote.

In the government’s objection, Reed wrote the prosecution “respectfully disagrees with the weight afforded [to the] Defendant’s period of state bond compliance versus the risk of dangerousness.”

Baker was supposed to be released following a status hearing Wednesday where it would be determined that any firearms in the Frankfort residence shared by Baker and his fiancé, Natasha Collins, had been removed. On June 4, Collins was called to testify in which she agreed that she would remove the handgun she owned from the residence and was offered as a third-party custodian by the defense for Baker should he be released.

Ingram also ruled that all controlled substances should be reasonably secured against access by Baker. He would also be placed on home incarceration and his travel would be restricted to the eastern district of Kentucky. Baker would also be ordered to refrain from alcohol use and ordered to submit to drug testing. Both Collins and Baker’s father agreed to put up their homes to secure Baker’s bond.

An order was filed Thursday instructing the prosecution to file a brief addressing its objection to Ingram's ruling by 4 p.m. on Monday, June 14. The defense has to file its response by 4 p.m. the following Wednesday, June 16.

The decision on Baker’s release will be made by a U.S. District judge after each side's filings.

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