Kentucky Man Challenges U-S Hate Crime Law In Gay Attack

Jul 26, 2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky.  --  An eastern Kentucky man charged with a federal hate crime in an attack on a gay man is challenging the law, which is being used in this case for the first time to prosecute someone for an attack motivated by sexual orientation.

The attorney for 20-year-old Anthony Ray Jenkins of Partridge said in a motion that "Congress has gone too far" in creating a protected class of people when it passed the legislation in 2009.

"Further lacking is a legitimate legislative objective," attorney Willis Coffey of Mt. Vernon, Ky., wrote. "Providing greater protection for victims of crime based on sexual orientation than other crime victims is advancing the arbitrarily creation of classes of individuals."

Anthony Jenkins and his cousin, 37-year-old David Jason Jenkins of Cumberland, have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, assault and violating the hate crime law.

Prosecutors say the men assaulted Kevin Pennington at Kingdom Come State Park in Harlan County on April 4, 2011. If convicted, they face life in prison.

Coffey did not immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday. The U.S. Attorney's office in Lexington did not immediately file a response to the motion. Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Federal prosecutors say this is the first federal case in the nation charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was passed in 2009. Mable Ashley Jenkins and Alexis LeeAnn Jenkins, both 19, pleaded guilty in April to aiding and abetting the kidnapping and hate crime assault. Prosecutors say those pleas were the first convictions under that section of the law.

Alexis Jenkins is married to Anthony Jenkins, and Mable Jenkins is his sister.

Coffey, in a motion filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Lexington, said the law goes beyond U.S. Supreme Court decisions "simply recognizing" the rights of homosexuals to conduct their lives without government interference and makes them a protected class that receives preferential treatment.

Pennington was invited by Mable and Alexis Jenkins to go on an evening drive, but once he saw David and Anthony Jenkins in the truck, he asked to be taken home, according to an FBI affidavit. At one point the truck stopped in front of a downed tree and Anthony and David Jenkins pulled Pennington out of the truck and attacked him, according to the affidavit.

The men hit him and kicked him while "making anti-homosexual statements," according to the affidavit.

Pennington escaped, ran to a ranger station, broke a window to get inside and called police. Pennington suffered injuries to his back, face, neck and ear in the attack at the mountaintop Appalachian park.