Kentucky Men Acquitted of Hate-Crime Charges in First Test of New Law
Two Kentucky men were found not guilty Wednesday in the first case to be prosecuted charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the federal hate-crimes law expanded in 2009.
Cousins Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins were found guilty of kidnapping in the 2011 attack on Kevin Pennington, who is gay. The defendants were acquitted of hate-crime charges, the Associated Press reports.
Federal prosecutors had argued that the Jenkinses planned to kidnap, beat, and kill Pennington because of his sexual orientation. Defense attorneys argued the dispute happened because of a drug deal turned sour. Attorney Willis Coffey suggested that Pennington’s allegations were motivated by a political agenda.
“Coffey said Pennington pushed the idea that he was attacked for being gay to serve his own political agenda,” according to the AP. “Coffey invoked the name of President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky and lost badly in the state four years ago.”
President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. The legislation expanded federal hate-crimes law to cover attacks motivated by sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.
The Jenkinses are scheduled to be sentenced in February.