Hate crime trial: Victim tells of beating, anti-gay slurs
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« on: October 25, 2012, 05:58:16 pm »

 By Bill Estep — [email protected]

LONDON — In the first trial of its kind in the nation, a gay man testified Wednesday that two men yelled slurs about his sexual orientation as they punched and kicked him during a vicious attack in Harlan County.

Kevin Pennington, 29, said Jason and Anthony Jenkins took him to a dark, isolated road in mountainous Kingdom Come State Park and assaulted him one night in April 2011.

"You're gonna die, you ... faggot! You deserve this!" Pennington said the two yelled as they hit him.

Defense attorneys did not cross-examine Pennington on Wednesday, but they described Pennington as a drug dealer and said he lied early in the case by not disclosing that a planned drug deal preceded the attack.

"Mr. Pennington does not come to this with clean hands," Andrew Stephens, who represents Jason Jenkins, told jurors.

Jason and Anthony Jenkins, who are cousins, are charged with conspiring to kidnap Pennington, with kidnapping him, and with injuring him because he is gay.

The charges were the first in the nation under a section of the federal hate-crimes law that makes it illegal to attack someone based on the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation, according to U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey. The Jenkins cousins could face life in prison if convicted.

One key issue in the trial, which began Wednesday, is whether the attack on Pennington was motivated by anti-gay bias.

"This case is about the two defendants ... planning and trying to kill Kevin Pennington because Kevin Pennington is gay," Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins told jurors.

The Jenkins cousins attacked Pennington's boyfriend in 2009, but he and Pennington got away, prosecutors said in a court document.

Jason Jenkins decided to attack Pennington last year over that "unfinished business," Hawkins told jurors Wednesday.

Stephens and Willis G. Coffey, who represents Anthony Jenkins, acknowledged that Pennington was beaten up last year, but they said the attack was not because of his sexual orientation.

Coffey said Pennington had agreed to buy a dose of Suboxone for Ashley Jenkins, who is Anthony's sister. Suboxone is used to treat drug dependency, but it also can be abused to create a high.

However, Jason Jenkins, who was very drunk and abusing drugs, was worried that Pennington's source was a police informant, and the two argued, Coffey said.

"There was simply an argument that led to a fight because Jason was out of his head," Coffey said.

The crippling level of drug abuse in Eastern Kentucky is a subtext in the trial. Everyone involved had a drug problem except Anthony Jenkins.

Ashley Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins, Anthony Jenkins' wife, also were charged in the case.

Both pleaded guilty to aiding in the attack on Pennington, but neither have been sentenced.

Ashley Jenkins testified Wednesday that she had bought Suboxone from Pennington many times before April 2011.

Jason and Anthony Jenkins came up with a plan for her ask Pennington to go to Cumberland with her and help her get the drug, Ashley Jenkins testified.

The real goal was to lure Pennington into Anthony Jenkins' pickup truck, she said.

Jason and Anthony Jenkins wore hooded clothes to hide their faces, turned off the dome light in the truck and looked away from Pennington as he approached, she testified.

"They was going to take him up on the park and beat him to death" and dispose of his body, Ashley Jenkins said of her brother and cousin.

On the way, Alexis Jenkins mistakenly turned on the interior light, and Pennington, in the back seat of the extended-cab pickup, saw Jason and Anthony Jenkins up front.

Pennington could not get out of the back seat unless the front door was opened.

Pennington began asking to get out, but Jason Jenkins instead threatened to rape him, both Ashley Jenkins and Pennington testified.

She said Pennington begged her not to let the others hurt him, but they dragged him out of the truck and punched and kicked him repeatedly while all four of them yelled anti-gay slurs.

Defense attorneys challenged Ashley Jenkins' truthfulness, saying she has given conflicting statements, and they suggested that she crafted her story to try to get a lower sentence.

Coffey said she had earlier told at least nine people that the attack was motivated by drugs, not Pennington's sexual orientation.

Jenkins acknowledged that she wants to try to get a lower sentence, but she said she told the truth on the witness stand.

Pennington, a slight, soft-spoken man, became emotional as he described the attack on the cold, rainy night.

He said he curled into a ball on the road as Jason and Anthony Jenkins hit and kicked him.

"I was screaming at the top of my lungs, 'Please stop!'" and he said he apologized for whatever he'd done to make them mad.

He said he saw flashes of light as his head kept hitting the pavement, and then he blacked out.

When he came to, the others were looking for a tire iron in the truck to continue beating him, Pennington said.

Fearing for his life, he ran and jumped over the side of the mountain near the road, landing several feet down, Pennington said.

He hid behind a rock until his attackers stopped looking for him, then, after they left, he limped to the ranger station and broke a window to get access to a phone to call for help, he said.

Pennington said he initially did not tell authorities of the drug buy that he had arranged before the attack because he was concerned that would detract from the real reason for the assault: his sexual orientation.

Defense attorneys are scheduled to cross-examine Pennington when the trial resumes Thursday.

Read more here: hXXp://www.kentucky.com/2012/10/17/2374726/trial-begins-in-eastern-kentucky.html#storylink=cpy


« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2012, 06:05:05 pm »

London jury deliberates in federal hate-crimes trial

 By Bill Estep — [email protected]

LONDON — Jurors on Wednesday will begin deciding the fate of two men charged in a federal hate-crimes case.

Prosecution and defense attorneys finished closing arguments in the case about 4 p.m. Wednesday, and U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove said jurors would begin deliberating after he instructs them in the applicable law.

Jason Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins, who are first cousins, are on trial in U.S. District Court in London on charges that they assaulted Kevin Pennington of Letcher County because Pennington is gay.

The two are charged with conspiracy, kidnapping Pennington, and injuring him because of his sexual orientation.

The trial is the first in the nation under a section of the federal hate-crimes law that makes it illegal to attack someone based on the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation. Jason and Anthony Jenkins could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

In closing arguments, prosecutors reminded jurors of testimony from several witnesses who said the Jenkins cousins targeted Pennington because he is gay.

Those witnesses included Anthony Jenkins' sister, Ashley, and his wife, Alexis, who pleaded guilty to aiding in the attack.

They testified for the prosecution in hopes of getting lesser sentences.

The two said they took part in a plan to lure Pennington into Anthony Jenkins' pickup truck with a story that they wanted to buy drugs.

Instead, the group took Pennington to a secluded spot in Kingdom Come State Park, in Harlan County, and yelled anti-gay slurs as the two men punched and kicked Pennington, the two women testified.

Pennington said he escaped into the woods when the two men stopped beating him in order to look for a tire iron with which to kill him.

"They brutally assaulted Kevin because he is, in their words, a ... faggot," prosecutor Angie Cha told jurors.

Prosecutors acknowledged Pennington first concealed the reason he went with the others — which was to buy drugs — but his account of the crime has been consistent in all other ways since his first panicked call to 911 when he reached a phone at the park manager's station, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys, however, argued the government's case was built on lies.

The assault stemmed from drug and alcohol abuse and an aborted drug deal, not Pennington's sexual orientation, defense attorneys told jurors.

Jason Jenkins got mad because the drug dealer Pennington planned to take them to was rumored to be a police informant, said Jenkins' attorney, Andrew Stephens.

The group ended up not going to the man's house to buy a pill, and Jenkins, angry that Pennington might have put them in danger of getting arrested, went "redneck," Stephens said.

"So all of a sudden, nobody's going to get stoned now, and they lost control," Stephens said.

Anthony Jenkins' attorney, Willis Coffey, said Ashley and Alexis Jenkins and Pennington lied in their testimony.

The women told a number of people in the months after the attack that it was motivated by drugs, but they changed their stories after learning they could face long federal prison sentences, Coffey said.

Coffey noted that Ashley and Alexis Jenkins said they are bisexual, that Jason Jenkins had wanted to have sex with Pennington at one point, and that Anthony Jenkins didn't get mad when Pennington offered him drugs to have sex with him.

The theory that the two men attacked Pennington because he is gay doesn't make sense, Coffey said.

"This turned out to be the most sexually tolerant group that I've ever heard of," Coffey told jurors.

In response, however, prosecutor Hydee Hawkins said jurors should consider why, if the attack stemmed from a drug deal gone bad, the four people involved in the crime felt it necessary to trick Pennington into getting into the truck with them.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/10/24/2383390/london-jury-deliberates-in-federal.html#storylink=cpy


« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2012, 07:24:45 pm »

Gay Hate Crime Acquittal In Kentucky Throws Fuel On Hate Crime Debate

Over the past 10 years, as gay rights advocates have pushed the government to take steps to protect gay people from hate crimes, those arguing for and against such laws have observed that hate crime cases are exceptionally difficult to prosecute. This week, a ruling in the first-ever federal prosecution of a hate crime motivated by anti-gay bias threw still more fuel onto the long-simmering debate.

At first glance, the facts of the case may seem straightforward. In the middle of an April night last year, cousins David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, kidnapped and beat a 28-year-old gay man named Kevin Pennington in the remote hills of Kingdom Come State Park in southeastern Kentucky. Anthony Jenkins' wife, Alexis LeeAnn Jenkins, 19, and his sister, Mable Ashley Jenkins, 20, watched the beating. They later testified that the men shouted anti-gay slurs like "Kill that faggot!" as they meted out the abuse. When the men paused to search for a tire iron to finish off Pennington, the victim threw himself over the side of the road to hide, according to the FBI.

Covered in bruises and cuts, Pennington eventually limped back to the road and dialed 911. "They did it because I'm gay," he told the dispatcher, according to court records. "They said they was going to kill me."

(Click here for HuffPost's in-depth investigation into the crime.) hXXp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/23/hate-crime-harlan-county_n_1534421.html

The government alleged that all four Jenkins targeted Pennington because he was gay. This past spring, Alexis and Ashley Jenkins pleaded guilty to the hate crime charges, leading to the first-ever convictions for a gay bias crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2009.

The men both pleaded not guilty to all charges. Although they didn't deny that a fight had occurred, their lawyers sought to frame the incident as a struggle over a drug deal gone wrong.

Late Wednesday night, after nearly five hours of deliberation, a jury in London, Ky., convicted the Jenkins men of kidnapping and conspiracy charges, but rejected the theory that hatred had motivated their crimes. Andrew Stephens, the court-appointed lawyer for David Jason Jenkins, sounded jubilant on the phone as he recounted the defense's successes, despite the fact that his client still faces the possibility of life in prison.

Stephens credited the failure of the government's hate crime theory to two main factors. First, he said, the evidence dispelled any doubt that a dispute over drugs had played a role in the incident; second, testimony from both women and from Pennington likely convinced the jury that three of the four Jenkinses are themselves bisexual. "There were questions about everybody's sexuality except Anthony's," the lawyer said.

When the trial began, some legal experts thought the government might rack up its first victory in a gay hate crime case. The acquittal has them assessing why the government failed and has added strength to the argument that hate crimes are too difficult to prove.

The story that emerged in the trial was complicated and ambiguous, and that is far from unusual in hate crime prosecutions. "A lot of these cases that look like they are poster cases of hate crime and bias, on close inspection turn out to be much more complicated situations," said James B. Jacobs, a law professor at New York University and one of the leading critics of hate crime laws.

Echoing the closing statement of the defense lawyers, who argued that the government had brought the case for political reasons, Jacobs said he thought it wasn't necessary for the feds to prosecute the case under the hate crime law. "It was a clear case apparently of kidnapping and assault," he said. "That's a very serious crime with a very serious punishment. What's wrong with that?"

Like the other experts interviewed, Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University and author of The Violence of Hate, questioned why the government had chosen such a complicated case to test the law. In the majority of violent hate crimes, he said, the victim and the attacker are strangers. In this case, all five had known each other for years.

And then there was sexuality of the attackers. "Let's face it," Levin said. "As a practical matter, if you're [the victim and the perpetrator are] in the same group, the jury will be more reluctant to convict someone of a hate crime."

Despite the acquittal on the hate crime charges, he argued, the trial was still a victory for the government.

"The feds get criticized too often for ignoring hate crime investigations," Levin said. "That's why the federal government wins even if the defendant is acquitted. They came up with the charge and took a risk, and now who's at fault for the acquittal?”

He answered his own question: "The jury, not the feds."

Suzanne Goldberg, a professor at Columbia Law School, also described the case as a victory for the government, noting that the defense lost its challenge to the constitutionality of the hate crime law before the trial even began. "It is a big deal that the court rejected the challenge to the hate crimes law," she said.

With two guilty pleas from the Jenkins women and two possible life sentences for the Jenkins men, the prosecution can hardly be portrayed as an outright bust. But hate crime laws are intended to improve society -- to carve out a safe space for minorities by outlawing violence motivated by bias -- and by that measure, some felt the case fell short of achieving its goal.

"I'm not sure the federal criminal prosecution leaves this community in any better shape," said Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia Law School and the director of the school's Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.

"The law is a very blunt instrument," Franke continued. "It can't tolerate or handle complex questions like the questions of sexual identity and motivation that were present in this case. The law deals much more easily with things like a burning cross, a noose or a swastika -- unambiguous kinds of hateful messages."

If the government really hopes to advance the safety of gay people, Franke continued, its resources would be better spent on social programs like education. Harlan County, the corner of Appalachia where the crime occurred and where the Jenkins live, has been battered over generations by poverty, drugs, environmental degradation and violence of all kinds.

For now, despite the acquittal, the government said it is more dedicated than ever to prosecuting hate crimes of every sort. "I'm very proud of the work of our trial team, and we we will continue to move forward very aggressively and evenhandedly in this area," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Since 2009, when Obama signed the new legislation, the government has successfully prosecuted 13 cases against 37 defendants for a range of bias crimes. This is the first of those cases, Perez said, where the defendants have been acquitted of the hate crime charges.

Under the Obama administration, the government has increased the number of hate crime prosecutions by 20 percent, and Perez said that he expects this tally may continue to rise. "I'd like to report that hate crime prosecutions are going down because the problem has abated," he said, "but the facts do not so indicate, regrettably."


« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2012, 07:19:10 am »

I can see why the hate crime charges didn't stick its pretty hard to convince any jury (let alone one in texas) that 4 people are homophobic when theres doubts as to their own sexuality you got the bisexual sister and wife, the guy that wanted to sleep with the victim and the one that would have done it to pay for their drugs ...

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