Kentucky men plead not guilty in gay hate crime case

Friday, April 13, 2012

Two Kentucky cousins were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, kidnapping, and assault against a gay man. They pleaded not guilty yesterday in a case the prosecution alleges is a hate crime motivated by the victim's sexual orientation.

President Obama shakes hands with the sisters of James Byrd, Jr., and the mother of Matthew Shepard after the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is signed into law, Oct. 28, 2009.
Image: The White House.

US Attorney Kerry B. Harvey says it is the first time that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act will be used in a prosecution of a case in US courts. President Barack Obama signed the law in October 2009.

David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins made a plan to assault Pennington because of his sexual orientation.

—U.S. federal indictment

The charges were brought against David Jason Jenkins, 37, and his cousin Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20.

On April 4, 2011, the two were allegedly involved in a nighttime incident in which Kevin Pennington says he was lured into a dark vehicle with the two men by two women, driven to the Kingdom Come State Park and assaulted.

Pennington says he was able to escape during the attack, hide in the woods, and seek help from the park's office. After the incident, Pennington was bruised and had visible head injuries.

Pennington said he knew of the two men and believed they had been involved in a beating of a friend who is gay.

The 20-year-old Jenkins' wife and sister, both 19, were not charged with the two men although it has been alleged that they verbally supported the cousins during the incident and used anti-gay language. The case involves an FBI recording of the elder Jenkins talking about his younger cousin's motivations.

Andrew Stevens, who is the 37-year-old Jenkin's lawyer, said it would be difficult to prove what someone was thinking in order to connect a crime to sexual orientation.

A conviction of a hate crime could result in a life sentence.