A man charged with stealing more than $1 million from a monastery in Kentucky wants out of paying restitution after being released early from prison over COVID-19 concerns.
The attorney for John E. Hutchins, 46, of Bardstown, argued in a motion that because the order by Gov. Andy Beshear commuting Hutchins’ sentence didn’t specifically require restitution, he shouldn’t have to pay.
Prosecutors will oppose the request, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Arch C. McKay.
The commonwealth believes the fact that Hutchins’ sentence was commuted does not relieve him of the order to repay the Abbey of Gethsemani, McKay said.
Hutchins had been the accountant for the monastery for several years before he was charged in 2014 with stealing more than $1 million between 2008 and 2014.
Trappist monks established the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County in 1848. The monks spend hours in prayer, worship and work daily, beginning at 3:15 a.m.
It is considered the oldest continuously operating monastery in the country and was the home of Thomas Merton, who lived at the abbey from 1941 until his death in 1968, and wrote dozens of books.
The monastery also is well-known for its sales of fruitcakes and fudge, which support the mission.
Hutchins pleaded guilty to 87 charges of complicity to commit theft and 87 charges of complicity to illegal access of a computer. He was sentenced in December 2014 to 20 years in prison.
Last August, however, Beshear signed an order commuting the sentences of Hutchins and more than 600 other state inmates. The intent was to protect inmates and corrections staff from COVID-19 by reducing the population in prisons and jails, Beshear said.
The people released were all non-violent, non-sexual offenders, and had to either be within six months of finishing a sentence, or people within five years of getting out of prison who were considered particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of their age or medical conditions.
Hutchins, who would have been eligible for parole in April 2025, was released last Aug. 27 from Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington, according to court records.
As part of Hutchins’ sentence, he forfeited his house, two vehicles, $42,000 in cash and personal property that included two big-screen TVs, a zero-turn mower, six watches, exercise equipment, jewelry and computers.
The sentence included an additional $600,000 in restitution to the monastery, according to court documents.
Hutchins has made small payments — $130 on March 11 and again on April 1, for instance — but owed $591,704.76 as of this week, said Nelson Circuit Clerk Diane Thompson.
On June 4, attorney Jude Hagan filed a motion for Hutchins seeking to end his restitution.
The motion said that while Beshear’s commutation order included a number of conditions, such as a quarantine period after release if needed, it did not make restitution a condition of Hutchins’ release.
That means the maxim “expressio unis est exlusio alterius would apply,” Hagan said.
That is a concept in the law that the explicit mention of one thing is the exclusion of another.
The commutation order could have made restitution a condition of release, but it didn’t, Hagan argued.
Hagan said in an interview that he believes Hutchins is working in the construction field. He said he couldn’t comment further on the case.
A spokesman for the monastery declined comment on the request.