Two Kentucky men have become the first to be charged under the Matthew Shepard-James C. Byrd hate crimes law for crimes aggravated by hatred based on sexual orientation.
Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, and his cousin, David Jason Jenkins, 37, were charged with conspiracy, kidnapping and committing an act of violence based on the victim’s sexual orientation.
According to the indictment documents, the incident in April last year began when the two men, accompanied by Anthony Jenkins’ 19-year-old wife and his sister, Mable Ashley Jenkins, 19, picked up the victim, Kevin Pennington, in their truck. They then took him against his will into woods near Cumberland where they severely beat him while yelling slurs about his sexual orientation.
FBI Special Agent Anthony M. Sankey says in the documents that the women allegedly cheered on the attack, yelling “kill that faggot.”
Pennington escaped during a lull in the attack, and hid in the woods until the four stopped looking for him. 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.
According to the documents, David Jenkins asked and then demanded oral sex from Pennington, which was refused, after which David Jenkins threatened to violently rape him.
Sankey writes that the truck stopped in the park because a tree had fallen across the road and Anthony and David Jenkins pulled Pennington 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 writes. “Ashley yelled `yeah that what you like queer were gonna kill your … now.’”
Each of the four attackers have acknowledged having Pennington in the truck that night, and three of the four implicated David Jenkins as the instigator of the attack.
David Jenkins has pointed to his cousin as the one who began the attack, saying he only joined in after it had started.
Kerry Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, told Kentucky Public Radio:
“The penalty potentially is any term of years up to life in prison. So these are very serious charges that carry very serious penalties.”
The Matthew Shepard-James C. Byrd hate crimes law was signed by President Obama in October 2009. It expands the 1969 federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The Act is named after Matthew Shepard, a student who was tortured and murdered in 1998 near Laramie, Wyoming because he was perceived to be homosexual, and James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man who was tied to a truck by two known white supremacists, dragged from it, and decapitated in Jasper, Texas in 1998.
Last month, the first convictions under the 2009 law came down over the racist killing by three white men in Mississippi of James Craig Anderson.
Photo credit: Anthony Jenkins (left) and David Jenkins booking photos, courtesy Laurel County, Ky. Sheriff’s Department