2 Face Federal Hate Crime Charge in Ky. Gay Attack
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Two Kentucky men have been charged with a federal hate crime in a beating attack on a gay man in an Appalachian park, marking the first time the law has been applied in a U.S. case alleging bias over a victim’s sexual orientation, authorities said.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Lexington announced the charges against cousins David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge. Both were indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this week in connection with the April 2011 attack that left victim Kevin Pennington with chest, head and other injuries.
The grand jury charged the men with violating a hate crime law that was expanded in 2009 to cover assaults motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. They also were indicted on federal kidnapping, assault and conspiracy charges.
"The indictment marks the first federal case in the nation charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the Federal Hate Crimes Law," said a U.S. Department of Justice statement.
"It’s vindicating to see that the years of hard work that went into making sure this law was on the books is now being put into place," said Michael Cole-Schwartz, a spokesman for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, which pushed for the law’s passage.
"The bigger picture here is that the U.S. attorney’s office is sending a message that you don’t try to hurt someone and you don’t injure them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Foundation, a civil-rights group that lobbied the Department of Justice to intervene in the case.
David and Anthony Jenkins pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in London on Thursday. David Jenkins’ lawyer, Andrew Stephens of Lexington, said Jenkins knew Pennington and Jenkins denies that he committed a hate crime.
"The hate crime component of this is just flat wrong," Stephens said. "I think it’s very difficult to get into the mind of somebody and figure out what their intent is."
Pennington also suffered injuries to his back, face, neck and ear in the attack at Kingdom Come State Park, a mountaintop park covering more than 1,200 acres of pristine pine-covered wilderness in the mountainous Appalachian region. He was subsequently treated and released from a hospital.