A federal jury late last night convicted two Harlan County, Ky., men on federal kidnapping charges and conspiracy charges, exposing them to a maximum of life imprisonment. The jury also acquitted the men of violating the sexual orientation provision of the Matthew Shepard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, were convicted on the kidnapping and conspiracy charges for their roles in kidnapping and assaulting 28-year-old Kevin Pennington, a gay man.
The federal jury in London, Ky., convicted the defendants for their conduct related to the April 4, 2011, assault of Pennington. Testimony at trial established that the defendants, who are cousins, carried out the crime with help from two other relatives – Mable Ashley Jenkins, 20, and Alexis LeeAnn Jenkins, 19 – who both pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting kidnapping and aiding and abetting the hate crime assault against Kevin Pennington prior to trial and testified against the defendants. Both women pleaded guilty to federal hates crimes charges, representing the first federal convictions under the sexual orientation provision of the Matthew Shepard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
The evidence established that the defendants and their female co-conspirators planned in advance of the assault to kidnap Pennington, take him to a remote location and beat him to death. After luring Pennington by false pretenses into a truck being driven by Anthony Jenkins, the group drove Pennington up a deserted mountain road into Kingdom Come State Park, where they dragged Pennington into the road and beat him.
The evidence also established that Pennington escaped while the defendants were searching in the back of the truck for a tire iron to use to kill Pennington. Pennington ran off the road and threw himself over a ledge, where he hid behind a rock until the defendants finally gave up searching for him and drove away. Pennington staggered part-way down the mountain, where he found a ranger shack, broke a window and called 911.
The defendant’s co-conspirators, Ashley and Alexis Jenkins, both testified that they and the defendants had agreed in advance to lure Pennington into the truck, drive him to a deserted area and beat him because of his sexual orientation. The women also testified that during the beating, the defendants and their co-conspirators used anti-gay slurs and yelled, “Kill the faggot!” and that the group intended to kill Pennington.
The jury heard six days of testimony, after which it deliberated for hours before returning yesterday’s guilty verdicts. U.S. District Court Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove will sentence the defendants on Feb. 21, 2013.
“As the jury recognized through its verdict, this kidnapping and assault was a vicious and criminal act. The Department of Justice will continue will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to vindicate the rights of victims of violent crimes,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “ The Department will also continue to vigorously investigate hate crimes allegations and support state and local law enforcement in their efforts to identify these crimes.”
“We are pleased that all those who participated in this cruel criminal episode have been convicted of serious offenses,” said Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “We expect that the punishment will reflect the severity of the crimes. Our trial team and law enforcement partners are to be congratulated for their excellent work in this matter.”
This case was investigated by Special Agents Anthony Sankey and Mike Brown with the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins from the U.S. Attorney Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Trial Attorney Angie Cha from the Civil Rights Division.