The Justice Department announced today that two Harlan County women admitted they assisted others in kidnapping and assaulting a gay man because of his sexual orientation.
Today, the U.S. District Court in London, Ky., unsealed guilty pleas, previously entered by 19-year-old Mable Ashley Jenkins and 19-year-old Alexis LeeAnn Jenkins. The defendants pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting kidnapping and aiding and abetting the hate crime assault against Kevin Pennington on April 4, 2011.
The women admitted they lured Pennington into a truck with two other defendants, Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins. The truck was driven to an Eastern Kentucky state park where Pennington was allegedly assaulted by the male defendants.
Both women waived their right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to the charges. Mable Jenkins pleaded guilty Tuesday and Ashley Jenkins pleaded guilty Wednesday of this week. Their plea agreements remain under seal.
The women admitted to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The act expanded federal jurisdiction to include certain hate crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation. This case marks the first Federal convictions in the nation for a violation of this provision of the federal hate crime law.
The Shepard-Byrd law criminalizes certain acts of physical violence causing bodily injury motivated by any person’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
Alexis and Mable Jenkins will appear for sentencing in August. The kidnapping and hate crime offenses carry maximum penalties of up to life in prison.
The indictments concerning Anthony Jenkins and David Jenkins were returned Wednesday, April 11. Both men pleaded not guilty at their arraignments yesterday and a trial date has been set for June 18. An indictment is only an accusation, and the defendants are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.
This case was investigated by special agents with the FBI and Kentucky State Police. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins in the Eastern District of Kentucky and Trial Attorney Angie Cha with the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice.