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Kentucky men indicted under Matthew Shepard federal hate crime law

Kentucky men indicted under Matthew Shepard federal hate crime law

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A federal grand jury in London, Ky. on Thursday indicted two men in the first federal application of the Matthew Shepard-James C. Bryd hate crimes law since it was signed into law in October of 2009, according to an announcement by Kerry B. Harvey, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, Ky., and his cousin, David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, Ky., were charged with conspiracy, kidnapping and committing an act of violence based on the victim’s sexual orientation.

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

The Shepard-Byrd law criminalizes acts of physical violence which are motivated by numerous factors, including one’s race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The law also helps provide federal resources for investigating crimes and indicting alleged criminals.

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 Kevin Pennington, 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.”

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.

Kevin Pennington

Pennington said he suffered numerous injuries, including bruises over much of his body, a torn ligament in his shoulder, a closed-head injury and a torn ear.

Pennington told investigators that he
had gone for a ride with the four, but asked to be taken home after a few minutes. The group told the man they planned to go to Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland in Harlan
County, then return home.

According to court documents, David Jenkins asked and then demanded oral sex from him, which was refused, after which David Jenkins threatened to violently rape him.

Special Agent Anthony M. Sankey wrote in the affidavit that the truck stopped in the park because a tree had fallen across the road and Anthony and David Jenkins pulled the man out of the truck, then hit and kicked him while “making anti-homosexual statements.”

“During the attack (the victim) was covering his face and they were all screaming ‘how do you like this faggot?'” Sankey wrote. “Ashley yelled `yeah that what you like queer were gonna kill your … now.'”

In hand-written statements to Harlan County law enforcement at the time of the incident, each of the four acknowledged having the man in the truck that night, and three of the four implicated David Jenkins as the instigator of the attack.

Authorities said David Jenkins pointed to Anthony Jenkins as the one who began the attack, saying he only joined in after it had started.

The Jenkins were first charged in state circuit court in Harlan County after the attack, charges that were dropped once the Federal authorities filed a complaint.

Harlan County Commonwealth Attorney Henry Johnson said the charges in state court were withdrawn as it “made more sense to let the case go federal because the potential penalties are greater.”

“I’ve been aware of the fact that there was an investigation going on, and the federal authorities have been very thorough in their investigation on this,” Johnson said.

Alexis and Mable Jenkins are not named in the new indictment and a note on the U. S. District Court webpage says the earlier charges against them have been terminated.

The Kentucky Equality Federation, a civil rights group, pushed to have the four charged under the Shepard-Bryd law.

“We wanted this in federal court where the judges are appointed, not elected, so they don’t have to keep a portion of the population happy,” said Jordan Palmer, executive director of the group.

Palmer said he was pleased to see a hate-crime charge filed in the attack on Pennington.

“We do believe that a hate crime occurred,” he said.

The federation, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the case.

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