A U.S. federal grand jury has issued the nation's first-ever indictment in a hate crime case involving an offense against an indiviudal based on their sexual orientation, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.
Two Harlan County, Ky. men were indicted Thursday for their roles in kidnapping and severely beating a gay man solely because of his sexuality. A federal grand jury in London, Ky. returned a three-count indictment charging David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, for conspiring with each other and other unnamed individuals to kidnap and assaulting Kevin Pennington, who is openly gay, according to a statement for the agency.
The two defendants have been charged with committing a hate crime in violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act. The legislation, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009, expand the 1969 U.S. federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The indictment alleges that on April 4 the two defendants, who are reportedly cousins, enlisted two women to convince Pennington to get into a truck with them, after which they drove him to a secluded area of the Kingdom Come State Park where they preceded to punch, kick and stomp him, Kentucky's Herald-Leader newspaper reports.
The defendants had Anthony Jenkins' wife, Alexis Leeann Jenkins and his sister, Mable Ashley Jenkins, both 19, lure Pennington from his home by promising to take him somewhere to get Suboxone, an painkiller popularly used for recreational purposes, the newspaper reports. Court documents reportedly say the two men dressed in hooded shits or jackets they believed would conceal their identities and disabled the interior light in Anthony Jenkins' truck so the victim would not be able to recognize them when he entered the vehicle.
Alexis Leeann Jenkins and her sister allegedly urged on the attack, yelling kill that faggot, according to information cited by the publication from the same court document.
Pennington told the Herald-leader he had previously rejected sexual advances from David Jason Jenkins. He said he was able to escape during a brief lull in the attack -- from which he suffered bruising, a torn ligament in his shoulder, a closed-head injury and a torn ear -- and then hid in the woods before eventually reporting the incident to a nearby ranger station.
A telephone call recorded at the Harlan County jail after the four alleged perpetrators were arrested reportedly features David Jason Jenkins telling his ex-wife that Anthony Jenkins did not like Pennington because he was gay.
The two women have not be charged for the purported involvement. The Jenkins cousins face a possible life sentence if convicted. A local ABC affiliate reports both men plead not guilty in federal court on Thursday.
The case is being prosecuted by assistant attorney Hydee Hawkins of the U.S. Attorney Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky and trial attorney Angie a with the Civil Rights division.