Two men who were charged in the Kentucky State Court with attempted murder stemming from the April beating of Kevin Pennington and were the federal government’s first-ever federal anti-gay hate crime case were acquitted yesterday by a Kentucky jury.
Prosecutors had argued that Anthony Ray Jenkins and his cousin David Jason Jenkins attacked 29-year-old Kevin Pennington at a rural state park because of Pennington’s sexual orientation, violating a hate crime law that was expanded in 2009 to cover assaults motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people. It was not clear why jurors late Wednesday rejected that argument. They were whisked away immediately after delivering the verdicts and did not make any comments. Anthony Jenkins’ attorney, Willis Coffey, said after the trial that jurors didn’t find Pennington’s account of the events credible. “You’d like to have an acquittal on all counts, but he’s happy he was found not guilty of a hate crime,” Coffey said of his client. “So am I.”
Andrew Stephens, the attorney for David Jason Jenkins, argued that his client had at least 21 beers on the day of tha attack on Pennington. “These people who were stoned and drunk were going to form a plan? When this event took place, they were all about drugs,” Stephens said.
Coffey said Pennington pushed the idea that he was attacked for being gay to serve his own political agenda. Coffey invoked the name of President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky and lost badly in the state four years ago.
“If the government and President Obama want to bow to the special-interest groups, that’s their business, but they picked the wrong case,” Coffey said.
U.S. Justice Department civil rights attorney AeJean Cha told jurors that the Jenkins cousins and two women planned to kidnap, beat and kill Pennington because of his sexual orientation.
“This is not about drugs, this is about the fact that Kevin is gay,” Cha said.