Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins, two cousins, were the first to be charged under the Matthew Shepard Act for the attack on Kevin Pennington at a rural state park in Kentucky. The 2011 attack on Pennington is believed to have been due to the victim’s sexual orientation. The two men were convicted kidnapping Pennington, but were not convicted of a hate crime.
Willis Coffey, the attorney for Anthony Jenkins, said after the trial that the jurors did not find Pnnington’s account of events credible and stated “You’d like to have an acquittal on all counts, but he’s happy he was found not guilty of a hate crime. So am I.” Prosecutors have not issued a statement. Pennington did not say anything to reporters after the sentence was read. The two men are to be sentenced on 21 February.
The defense argued that David Jason Jenkins was thoroughly drunk on the day of the assault, and could not have formulated the attack which the defense characterized as a drug deal gone wrong. The defense also argued that Anthony Jenkins has an IQ of roughly 75 and was merely a follower who cannot hate gays. One of the attorneys claimed that Pennington pushed the idea of a hate crime for his own ends and stated that “If the government and President Obama want to bow to the special-interest groups, that’s their business, but they picked the wrong case.”
US District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove rled that Congress had stretched their authority by crafting the federal hate crime statute.
KEF Southeastern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor stated about the verdict and the case that “We also take offense for the inflammatory comment from the defense that U.S. President Obama and the federal government bow to special interest groups. Kentucky Equality Federation is not a ‘special interest group,’ we seek equality and justice under law, nothing more, nothing less. U.S. President Obama knows this, Kentucky Governor Beshear knows this (with his executive order protecting LGBTI people from discrimination in Kentucky government), and U.S. Attorney Harvey knows this. The defense suggesting that Kevin Pennington was doing all of this for media attention in addition to bringing the U.S. president into the argument whom the defense said ‘is unpopular in Kentucky and lost badly here four years ago,’ is to me us both shocking and revolting, but the jury apparently bought some of the argument.”
Kentucky Equality Federation Board Chairman Brandon Combs stated “The acquittal of these individuals from the hate crime aspect of this case is truly a disappointment. This is a failing by prosecutors to make their case beyond a reasonable doubt, but this should serve as a rallying point around which the LGBTI community can gather and we thank the U.S. Department of Justice for responding to our request to prosecute this case. If there is any positive to take away from this ruling, it is that Mr. Pennington did receive some measure of justice, albeit not what he deserved.”
KEF legal representative attorney Jill Hall Rose said “I think it is important that the U.S. attorney took this case to send a message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated. The enormous burden of proof, especially in such a high profile case is on the government and the jury found some reasonable doubt as to the hate crime statute despite the compelling testimony given. This is not a setback, the fact that Kentucky Equality Federation successfully lobbied the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute this case and that U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey ordered it to be prosecuted says a lot about Kentucky and the United States; hate motivated crimes will not be tolerated. U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey has effectively put Kentucky ‘on notice.’ I admire Jordan Palmer for sticking up for people and the important work everyone that Kentucky Equality Federation does because they are all volunteers, none of them are paid.”
KEF President Jordan Palmer stated “I do continue to believe this was a hate crime. Beating someone, or trying to kill them, all the time shouting anti-gay slurs….. if that isn’t a hate crime, I’m not sure the jury completely understood the definition of the law. I agree with our attorneys that this was not a setback, though this is not the verdict we wanted, they still face life in prison. Tomorrow someone may be arrested for a hate crime that results in a conviction, each case is unique. Though the defense was ultimately unsuccessful in getting the law declared unconstitutional, the defense was successful in arguing about low IQ’s, drug addition, sexual attraction, etc. This does not negate the inescapable conclusion however that yelling anti-gay slurs while assaulting someone is by definition a hate crime, just as it would be (by definition) had they yelled defamatory terms about any other protected class while attempting to murder them. The assertion that one of the people who assaulted Kevin Pennington has an IQ of 75 and unable to plan the assault, but can apparently participate in it is repugnant.”