Two Kentucky men have been acquitted of hate-crimes charges in a first federal hate crimes trial of its kind trial involving an attack on a gay man. But jurors found both Anthony Ray Jenkins and his cousin David Jason Jenkins guilty on the charges of kidnapping and conspiracy to a kidnapping in connection with the assault on 29-year-old Kevin Pennington last year at a rural state park.
They had been charged with violating a section of a federal hate-crimes law that has not previously been prosecuted in the U.S.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins told the jury earlier that the two men used anti-gay slurs while kicking, beating and stomping on Pennington.
“You don’t have to agree with his lifestyle, but he’s a human being, and he deserved better than this,” Hawkins said.
CBS affiliate WKYT in Kentucky reports two female relatives of the defendants testified to the use of gay slurs in the assault.
Pennington sat in the courtroom occasionally wiping tears from his eyes as the attorneys spoke.
Throughout the trial, the defense argued that any dispute between the Jenkinses and Pennington was over a drug deal gone sour.
Andrew Stephens, the attorney for David Jason Jenkins, argued that his client had at least 21 beers on the day of the assault and was too drunk to have formulated a plan for such an attack.
“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.
Attorney Willis Coffey, who represents Anthony Jenkins, argued that his client has an IQ of roughly 75 and was merely a follower who does not hate gay people. He called the allegations “the nearest thing to nothing I have ever seen.”
Coffey said Pennington pushed the idea that he was attacked for being gay to serve his own political agenda. Coffey invoked the name of the Democratic president who is unpopular in Kentucky and lost badly there 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.
Hawkins also played a tape of Pennington’s 911 call after the attack. On the tape, Pennington’s voice can be heard cracking as he tries to describe the attack and relay information about the Jenkinses.
“They’re trying to kill me,” Pennington told the 911 operator on April 4, 2011. “I didn’t know what they were going to do. I think it’s because I’m gay.”
“Today is the day for accountability, ladies and gentlemen,” Hawkins said.