Michael “Drew” Hardy, who was convicted of murder and other counts in the 2014 drunken-driving death of Jeremy Pryor, was pardoned this week by outgoing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. The action drew a strong rebuke from the attorney representing Pryor’s family.
Signed Monday by the now-former governor and filed Wednesday with the Kentucky secretary of state, the act commutes Hardy’s 20-year prison sentence.
The pardon was granted on the condition that Hardy refrain from any alcohol consumption and “share his story and the name of Jeremy Pryor in schools, churches and other gatherings no less than six times per year for at least the next 20 years.”
Hardy was 20 when the Jeep Wrangler he was driving crashed into the back of Pryor’s Mazda Miata on Smallhouse Road on Nov. 21, 2014.
Pryor, 32, was pronounced dead at the scene.
At a 2016 trial in Warren Circuit Court, Hardy was found guilty of murder, three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, first-degree criminal mischief and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.
Witnesses testified at the trial that Hardy had been drinking whiskey for much of the day leading up to the crash and declined an invitation to stay at a friend’s house that night.
Tests showed Hardy had a blood alcohol content of 0.19 percent nearly two hours after the crash, more than twice the legal limit for drivers, and an investigation found Hardy was traveling at 90 mph in the moments before the crash.
Hardy’s conviction was affirmed on appeal, though his defense team was seeking a new trial this year on the grounds that his previous attorneys gave him inadequate legal representation.
“Michael Hardy will arise each day for the rest of his life with a debt that he cannot possibly repay,” the text of the pardon states. “Every day he will remember how his actions resulted directly in the death of an innocent man.”
Bevin said in the pardon that he did not believe that society or Pryor’s memory were best served by Hardy’s continued incarceration, and that he expected Hardy to use his actions “as a teachable lesson for others of all ages (but especially young people).”
Attorney Alan Simpson, speaking for the Pryor family, called the pardon “an absolute abuse of power, the likes of which is simply incomprehensible” and accused the former governor of substituting his judgment for that of the jury.
In a statement provided to the Daily News, Simpson said the Pryor family will be asking law enforcement to investigate Bevin’s actions related to the pardon, including any official and unofficial communication that may have occurred with Bevin or anyone acting on his behalf.
“The action of Matt Bevin screams of either a complete lack of empathy for other human beings, willful ignorance to the truth or outright corruption,” Simpson said in the statement. “Commutations of sentences and any kind of pardons are reserved for the most egregious cases, where the evidence in a case did not support a verdict, or an unjust decision was reached. This case has neither of those factors. Drew Hardy is anything but innocent.”