Paul Hurt and Matt Bevin

Paul Hurt (left) and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has pardoned a man serving life in prison for sexually abusing his 6-year-old stepdaughter.

News outlets report Bevin issued the pardon Friday, saying that Paul Donel Hurt was wrongly convicted of first-degree sexual abuse and sodomy in Louisville in 2001. Hurt’s accuser recanted her testimony at a hearing in 2015, but the conviction stood.

Circuit Court Judge Audra Jean Eckerle ruled the recantation was inconsistent. She also expressed concern because the trial judge in the case had communicated with Hurt and the victim after retiring from the bench. Eckerle says the trial judge “altered” the victim’s memory and testimony “by using judicial coercion and intimidation.”

An appellate court later upheld that ruling.

NBC affiliate WAVE-TV reports Bevin was acting in response to a retired circuit judge who sentenced Hurt. Court records revealed the victim, who is now an adult, had "shifting accounts" that did not give the court confidence in her recantation and "it is no more likely to be true than false." Hurt is also reportedly in poor health.

Hurt was released from the Kentucky State Reformatory on Friday.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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