Testimony Begins In Landmark Federal Hate-Crimes Trial In Kentucky

On Thursday, federal prosecutors in London, Kentucky opened the first federal trial to invoke the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

In April 2011, Kevin Pennington, 29 was approached at his home by Mable and Alexis Jenkins. Under the pretext of soliciting drugs, girls lured Pennington to a truck to join defendants Anthony and David Jason Jenkins.  After driving around for a while, the five stopped at a remote spot in rural Kingdom Come State Park in Harlan County, where Pennington told investigators that David, 37, demanded sexual favors and threatened to violently rape Pennington when he refused.

As the two attackers got out of the truck and came around for Pennington, he “asked me not to let them hurt him,” Ashley Jenkins testified this week. “He begged me.”

Pennington was then pulled out of the truck and knocked to the ground, where he was brutally beaten as the two men shouted, “How do you like this, faggot?!?”

“I was screaming at the top of my lungs to stop, please stop,” Pennington testified, wiping tears from his eyes. “I was sorry for anything I had done to make them do this to me.”

While one of the men searched for a tire iron and one of the girls agreed to help throw the 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. Bruised and beaten, he made his way to a local park ranger station and called for help. Pennington was left with a torn ear, a torn shoulder ligament, boot marks on his body and gravel embedded into his face.

The defense acknowledges Pennington was beaten by the Jenkins men but claims it had nothing to do with his sexuality, but rather a drug deal gone bad. But Alexis, testifying for the prosecution, confessed Pennington’s orientation was the true motivation behind the plan to attack Pennington, after it was learned he had a relationship with Anthony Jenkins’ brother.

Alexis, 19, who is married to Anthony, 20. also testified that the men bragged about it after the fact: “It was like, you know, ‘We whupped that faggot.'”

In addition to hate-crime charges, David and Anthony Jenkins face conspiracy and kidnapping charges. The trial is expected to last up to a week and, if found guilty, the men could face life in prison.