More Pleas, Questions In Groundbreaking KY Hate-Crimes Case

On Friday, it was announced that Mable and Alexis Jenkins, both 19, plead guilty to aiding and abetting their male cousins in the kidnapping and assault of a gay man, Kevin Pennington, in April 2011.

The two women admit they helped lure Pennington into a pickup truck with David Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Jenkins, 20, the first people to be indicted under a new federal hate-crimes statute’s sexual-orientation provision.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, enacted in 2009, criminalizes violence motivated by a victim’s real or perceived race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. If convicted, the men could face life in prison.

On Thursday, David and Anthony were indicted on federal hate-crime charges in a London, Kentucky, courthouse after pleading not guilty. According to earlier reports, Pennington, 28, had angered Mable and David by refusing to date either of them. The foursome took Pennington “to go riding around for cigarettes and soda,” but wouldn’t let him out of the truck when he asked.

While one of the male Jenkins searched for a tire iron and one of the girls agreed to help throw Pennington’s corpse over the mountainside after they killed him, Pennington jumped over a cliff, hid behind a rock and waited 45 minutes for them to leave. He was left with a torn ear, a torn shoulder ligament, boot marks on his body and gravel embedded into his face

The victim told investigators that David Jenkins demanded sexual favors and threatened to violently rape Pennington when he refused. After they pulled over, Anthony and David began hitting Pennington while screaming, “How do you like this, faggot?”

Michael Cole-Schwartz of HRC called the indictment “vindicating” after years of working to get the Shepard-Byrd Law passed, but David Jenkins’ lawyer, Andrew Stephens, says his client denies committing a hate crime. “The hate-crime component of this is just flat wrong,” says Stephens. “I think it’s very difficult to get into the mind of somebody and figure out what their intent is.”

We’re sure Stephens is the worst kind of good-old-boy Southern lawyer and that the Jenkins boys picked on Pennington (left) because he was gay. But doesStephens have a point? Can we get into the mind of a criminal and know exactly why he committed a crime? Is one reason worse than another? Isn’t attacking someone out of sheer sadism just as bad as doing it out of homophobia, as Bill Keller suggests in a New York Times op-ed?

Or as Politico writer William Yeomans posits, do hate-crime laws act as shield for groups that are disproportionately terrorized. And do they allow the federal government to step in when local authorities might want to forget the whole thing happened? Do we need them to protect (and avenge) the Kevin Penningtons and Trayvon Martins of the nation?

Lay down the law in the comments section!

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  • Johnny Q. Doe

    “According to earlier reports, Pennington, 28, had angered Ashley and David by refusing to date either of them.”

    Who is Ashley?

  • Clockwork

    >We’re sure Stephens is the worst kind of good-old-boy Southern lawyer

    What is this implying? The man is a defense lawyer representing a client.

    >federal government to step in when local authorities might want to forget the whole thing happened?

    What evidence is there local authorities “want to forget the whole thing happened?”

    >Pennington (murder victim) went for a ride with the two men and two other women, but
    >asked to be taken home after a few minutes. Pennington told investigators that David
    >Jenkins (murderer) demanded a sexual favor from Pennington, which was refused. Then the
    >man said David Jenkins threatened to violently rape him, according to the affidavit.

    David Jenkins (murderer), sounds like a real low-life queer who needs to be locked up for
    life. We’ve all seen a few low-life queers in our time, no need for hate crime charges here.

  • Mark

    Gee, so the NEW YORK TIMES of all places is getting around to how the public feels when hearing on the TV or radio: “The victim was stabbed 14 times and run over by his stabber twice. The alleged perpetrator is behind bars. Police are looking at whether this falls under “hate crime” or not.”

    No kidding, even Bill Keller gets it? “Sanctimonious posturing”. WOW.

  • Kev C

    Everyone ever charged with a hate crime has denied it was a hate crime. Haters hate Hate crime laws.

  • Mark

    “Haters hate Hate crime laws.” Which of course is a hate crime. It’s a worse hate crime that it’s not.

  • Kev C

    @Mark: I don’t give a fuck about “getting in the mind of somebody and figure out what their intent is.” If they attacked someone out of sheer sadism for no discernable reason, they must be insane and irrational. Either they have the capacity of reason .. and did this for a reason, or they are not capable of reason and are not sane. If the defense is saying that their client is insane or mentally incompetent, they have to prove that this is the case.

  • Ned Flaherty

    The hate-crime concept allows perpetrators to be prosecuted for both crimes: (1) physical assault, and (2) using bigotry as the excuse to commit assault.

    Even if hate-crime laws rarely get used, they still are extremely useful because they halted the practice of defense lawyers arguing that “my client was justified in committing assault because the victim is gay/black/Jewish/etc. and deserved assault.”

    It wasn’t so long ago that defense lawyers would often argue that victims deserved to be assaulted merely because of who they were, and that perpetrators weren’t resposible for their own irrational bigotry/phobia, and then the judge/jury would nod and say, “Oh, now we understand; surely victims such as these do deserve to be assaulted; your client’s free to go; sorry for any inconvenience.”

  • Mark

    A tourist in Baltimore, a healthy twenty something young white guy was videotaped by a black mob of women and men being mocked, beaten unconscious, stripped and robbed. And uploaded to YouTube.

    It’s gone viral (hard to watch, the guy attempts to just walk away) and people were waiting with anticipation whether this horror was “a hate crime or not”. Last I heard, it’s NOT, with the reasoning being the guy could have been Japanese or Eskimo, he still would have got the shit beat out of him. Yay! Equal justice for all!

  • FYI

    Motivation is always taken into account in determining a criminal charge. That is why we have 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree charges for everything from murder to assault to robbery, etc. But for all of the morons out there who think that it is being too “mind-readerish”, then why the f*ck even have different degrees of the same crime? Why? …Well, because the perpetrator’s frame-of-mind and his motivations DOES have a helluva of a lot to do to determine degrees of culpability.

    So, get over this HATE CRIME = THOUGHT CRIME garbage. No one is being punished for “wrong” thinking, they are being punished for wrong-doing, and that degree of punishment is the result of their frame-of-mind and motivations at the time of the incident. In other words, how much hate went into it or was it an accident or careless disregard for human life or safety.

    Group “Hate Crime” specific legislation targeting specific motivations regarding crime is no different than if some thoughtless vandal spray-painted “Johnny loves Mary” on the side of your house compared to some more vile and “hateful” vandal spray-painting “All Homos Should Burn in Hell” on the side of your house — especially if you just happen to be gay, and the vandals knew it. The damage is the same to your fence…there was no “direct” threat of violence to you, but…it really is a different kind of crime, one that means to terrorize and intimidate a particularly vulnerable community — and you know it. So quit with all of the “we shouldn’t punish people for thinking” crap, that is dishonest and you know it. Motive is ALWAYS taken into account when determining the degree of a crime being charged.

  • Christian

    All crimes are hate crimes. One doesn’t aggress against another out of love.

  • MikeE

    @Christian: untrue.
    not “all crimes” are hate crimes.

    most crimes are GREED crimes.

    but assaults that are motivated by bigotry against any particular group ARE hate crimes.

  • FYI

    Oh, and before anyone comes up with the analogy of: well, what if the vandals spray-painted “We hate Ice Skaters” on the side of your house and you just happened to be an Ice Skater. To that example, I would say that perhaps “Hate Crimes” sentence-enhancements should have been phrased to include “Any crime of violence, property damage or intimidation where the victim’s membership in a specific group is determined to be a motivating factor, directly or indirectly, in the commission of a crime”. That would include targeting “Ice Skaters” too, and not just Black people or Gay people, etc.

    It may sound silly, but too much specificity is as bad as the lack of specificity and often just leads to more confusion in the law.

    Maybe the word “HATE” in “HATE CRIME”(because it sounds so general and subjective) was a poor choice. Perhaps something more along the lines of “Targeted Group Terrorism and Intimidation Act” involving violent crimes and property damage would have been better and would have carried less political baggage.

    Or do we really want to go back to the “good old days” when cross-burning on some minority’s front lawn was just considered, technically under the law, nothing more than burning outdoors without a permit and just a simple case of littering someone’s property? A misdemeanor at best.

    …I hope not.

  • Christian

    @MikeE: Allow me to be more specific. “Greed” crimes(I prefer to use the word “avarice” in these cases, as greed, to me, is merely the desire for more than what you have; but that’s personal vocabulary), in which I assume you mean those in which one takes something from another, are hate crimes, for they show a contempt for the victim’s property rights. Indeed, they frequently show a hate towards the victim themselves, this hate being what we call “envy.” Hate is a Many-Splendored Thing. To single out the aggressions against only certain groups is to create an inequality in the execution of justice.

  • hf2hvit

    Who is Ashley?

  • John McLaren

    In the article the Queerty reporter writes “According to earlier reports, Pennington, 28, had angered Ashley and David by refusing to date either of them.” Who the hell is ASHLEY?

  • mike 07042

    Although everyone agrees that it’s impossible to know for absolute certainty what someone else is thinking, their behavior is evidence of their intent. Determining intent from an individual’s behavior is not unique to hate crimes statutes. It’s something that judges and juries have been called upon to do since the beginning of our legal system (for example, the intent to kill required to convict someone of homicide, the intent for physical contact required to convice someone of battery, or the intent to deceive for the to find someone liable for fraud). If a person’s behavior shows beyond a reasonable doubt that their crime was motivated by factors such as race, gender, or sexual orientation, there are plenty of good reasons to enhance their punishment based on that evidence.

  • ron

    Ugh! Kentucky!

  • Richard Ford

    Point 1: The defense lawyer contends that “the hate-crime component of this thing is just flat wrong” and goes on to say it’s very difficult to get into someone’s mind to know what they were thinking. So by his own reasoning, if you can’t really get into a criminal’s mind, how can you flatly state that it was not hate that was there?

    Point 2: Christian, you are flat wrong about all crimes being hate crimes. A list of examples would fill the rest of this page. I’ll cite one. My best friend plagiarized some work of mine a few years ago and presented the results as his own. I never snitched on him, but the publisher found out about it and pressed charges to save their own good name. He was fined but not imprisoned. The guy and I are still best friends.

  • cwm

    beating someone while calling them “faggot.” I don’t think it’s particularly necessary to “get inside [the] head” of such a person, to figure out that their crime was motivated by hatred of gay people.

    it doesn’t get much more definitive than that.

    OK, so one of the perpetrators wanted to rape Pennington: which doesn’t make him sound like he’s a perfect zero on the Kinsey scale. but a gay-basher who’s secretly worried about his own feelings? that’s hardly surprising.

  • Christian

    @Richard Ford: A list of examples would only show the multitude of fine gradations that are present in the concept of hate. Your best friend, by plagiarizing you, was committing fraud and showing contempt for your rightful claim to your results. He may not have hated you, but in my book, he sure didn’t show your rights to work any love.

  • Codswallop

    Ideally, hate crimes are those intended to intimidate or strike terror into a COMMUNITY, not just the direct victim. It’s the difference between an arsonist setting fire to an abandoned building or house versus setting fire to a synagogue or black church. It also includes people who attack others randomly for merely being a member of a group, without any other established motive. The crime is really against “those people” and the specific victim is just a stand-in, a representative of that group.

    In my opinion, in cases like this where there IS another motive, nonsensical as that motive may be, prosecutors should be careful about applying hate crime statutes.

  • michael

    I am surprised nobody pointed out the obvious about the lawyer saying it was impossible to get into the mind of the attacker to know if its a hate crime…

    Actually its not that difficult when the attacker is screaming “how do you like this you f#cking [email protected]

    It’s astonishing people can’t figure out if the crime was motivated by hate when the only thing coming out of the attackers mouth while he is beating the gay guy is “[email protected]

  • Grevin

    The suggestion that we can’t know the mind of a criminal is frankly F’n absurd.

    The United States system of justice is entirely based upon not only knowing the motivation behind a crime, but scaling the sentence to fit intention, premeditation, and “special circumstances”.

  • JasonUVA

    Prosecutors and police are wary of filing hate crime charges because they are typically more difficult to obtain convictions. Juries are members of the community and if the many people in the community are less than open-minded then a conviction could be lost. I would rather see violent offenders sentenced to longer prison terms as a result of more serious charges. Specifically, when one or more attackers beat someone to within an inch of death, then a charge of attempted murder or felony aggravated battery charges might yield a more certain conviction than aggravated battery and hate crime charge.

  • Richard Ford

    I had sex with the boy next door, who was 15 years and 10 months. Old In doing so, I committed a crime. A hate crime, right?

  • Christian

    @Richard Ford: Now you’re getting into the realm of what constitutes a crime. If the sex was consensual, that means that you didn’t aggress against his property (i.e. force yourself on him, or rape him), so you didn’t demonstrate hate towards anyone or anything, except the law perhaps. But statutory rape laws are prohibitive laws, which arise from arbitrary guidelines. For me, a crime is either force used against property and people or the committing of fraud. Most other things will almost certainly be arbitrary and subject to the whims and prejudices of the lawmakers, who are a most whimsical and prejudicial lot.

  • Richard Ford

    Christian: In comment #10 you said “All crimes are hate crimes.” A crime is an act that is defined by a penal code as punishable. Ergo, not all crimes are hate crimes, as in my consensual sex with a minor example.
    What can be debated here is whether crimes that are hate crimes should be adjudicated differently from crimes that are not hate crimes. I would disagree with your position on that point, but at least it is debatable.
    What is not debatable is that “all crimes are hate crimes.” That is patently false.

Comments are closed.