LONDON, Ky. — Jurors began deliberations Wednesday in the case of two men charged in a federal hate crimes case Wednesday.
Jason Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins, who are first cousins, are on trial in U.S. District Court in London, Ky., on charges that they assaulted Kevin Pennington because Pennington is openly gay. The two are charged with conspiracy, kidnapping Pennington, and injuring him because of his sexual orientation.
The trial is the first in the nation under a section of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act law that makes it illegal to attack someone based on the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation.
Both men face prison sentences of up to life in prison if convicted.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins, during his closing argument, reminded jurors that several witnesses, including Anthony Jenkins’ sister, Ashley, and his wife, Alexis, has testified that the victim had been targeted specifically due to his sexual orientation.
The two women had made separate guilty pleas in the case last spring to aiding in the attack in exchange for more lenient sentences.
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.During his testimony, Pennington said he was able to escape during a lull in the attack, when the two men stopped beating him in order to look for a tire iron with which to kill him.
He told the court that he had 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.
Co-prosecutor, Assistant U. S. Attorney Angie Cha told jurors, “They brutally assaulted Kevin because he is, in their words, a … faggot.”
The prosecutors did acknowledge that Pennington had first concealed the reason he went with the Jenkins family members — which was to buy drugs — in his initial statements to the FBI, but his account of the crime had been consistent afterwards.
U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove gave the jurors their instructions late Wednesday afternoon after prosecution and defense attorneys finished their closing arguments.
Deliberations by the jury towards reaching a verdict will continue Thursday.