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Federal trial begins in Kentucky hate crime beating of gay man

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

LONDON, Ky. — The federal trial of two men charged in an anti-gay hate crime in Harlan County, Ky., got underway in U.S. District Court Wednesday, the first federal application of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act for charges relating to the victim’s sexual orientation.

Anthony Ray Jenkins and his cousin David Jason Jenkins were indicted by a federal grand jury in April under the guidelines established by the federal hate crimes bill for the 2011 attack.

Anthony Jenkins (left) and David Jenkins.
Booking Photos courtesy Laurel County, Ky. Sheriff’s Department

In testimony Wednesday morning, Mable Ashley Jenkins, sister of Anthony Ray Jenkins and a cousin of David Jason Jenkins, told the court that the two men targeted their victim, Kevin Pennington “because he would be an easy target because he was gay.”

In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins said the Jenkins cousins had attacked a friend of the victim in 2009 and then “had decided to attack Pennington last year over that unfinished business.”

According to the indictment documents, the incident began when the two men, accompanied by Anthony Jenkins’ 19-year-old wife, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins of Partridge, and his sister, Mable Ashley Jenkins, 19, took the victim against his will into Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland in Harlan County on April 4, 2011, and severely beat him while yelling slurs about his sexual orientation.

FBI Special Agent Anthony M. Sankey stated in an affidavit that the women allegedly cheered on the attack, yelling “kill that faggot.”

Kevin Pennington

Pennington said he was able to escape during a lull in the attack, and hid in the woods until the four stopped looking for him. Pennington suffered numerous injuries, including bruises over much of his body, a torn ligament in his shoulder, a closed-head injury and a torn ear.

Anthony Jenkins’ wife, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins, testified that she took part in the plan to lure Pennington into Anthony Jenkins’ pickup truck with a false story that she wanted Pennington to buy drugs for her.

“The real plan was to take him to a remote area of Kingdom Come State Park and attack him,” she said. “They was going to take him up on the park and beat him to death … then dispose of the body.”

Defense attorney Willis Coffey, who represents Anthony Jenkins, in his opening argument acknowledged that there was an altercation involving the two men and Pennington, but denied that the incident was based on the victim’s sexual orientation.

According to Coffey, the victim went with the Jenkins’ to purchase drugs, but Jason Jenkins was concerned that the person Pennington planned to deal with was a police informant.

“[Anthony] Jenkins was drunk and high; he and Pennington argued, and it escalated,” Coffey said. “There was simply an argument that led to a fight because Jason Jenkins was out of his head.”

Coffey also challenged Ashley Jenkins’ account of the incident, claiming that she has told inconsistent stories in the case.

Mable and Alexis Jenkins previously entered guilty pleas in exchange for a lighter sentencing deal with prosecutors. Coffey suggested that Mable Jenkins lied about the alleged plan to attack Pennington because of his sexual orientation so she could get the best deal she could.

The Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed in 2009 by President Barack Obama, makes it illegal to attack someone based on the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Filed under: Kentucky

17 more reader comments:

  1. That makes me so angry!

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 9:49pm
  2. like for the trial beginning NOT the bbeating

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 9:54pm
  3. May justice be served. Kevin, I hope you get the closure you deserve!

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 9:57pm
  4. I hope the two murderers find themselves some big ugly girlfriends in prison.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 9:58pm
  5. Lie to get a lighter sentence. Throw the book at them. This man did not deserve the treatment they gave him.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:00pm
  6. It’s a sad world we live in when lesbians can be more easily accepted because ‘they’re hot’, though gay men are treated rougher and more hated =x

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:03pm
  7. I hope these bastards are sent to prison for a long time.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:10pm
  8. may God be with you, I know what it feels like, people just turn the other way. I sincerely hope its a strong turn out and a big win.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:12pm
  9. Kevin, we stand proudly alongside of you, and hope that you get justice, and as much closure as you need to heal. Keeping you in our thoughts & prayers…..Daniel & Luc Legault!

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:19pm
  10. I hope they are punished severly and rot in jail. Cowards!

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:27pm
  11. Throw the book at them.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 10:37pm
  12. Evil.

    Posted on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 11:24pm
  13. Beating up a gay man doesn’t make you a man, it makes you an asshole!!!

    Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 3:44am
  14. Renee, I agree, but beating up anyone doesn’t make you a man. That’s physically, mentally, or verbally….

    Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 4:03am
  15. It takes a small man to commit this crime. It actually takes a small man.

    Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 7:18am
  16. Steven I hope THEY will be the girlfriends,I dont want them to ever be able to victimize anyone again,not even another prisoner.

    Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 8:17am
  17. I hope these people are convicted and serve time, maybe that will send a message to the rest of the idiots out there that this type of behavior will not be tolerated!

    Posted on Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 9:02am