LONDON, Ky. – Two cousins have been found guilty of kidnapping in a 2011 attack on a gay man, but the jury acquitted them of federal hate-crime charges.
The case was the first-ever prosecution under a federal hate-crimes law signed by President Obama.
Despite testimony from friends and relatives of the two cousins that they used anti-gay slurs during the attack, the jury late Wednesday rejected the prosecution’s argument that Kevin Pennington, 29, was assaulted because he is gay.
The jury convicted Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy to a kidnapping.
Pennington testified that the two men, along with two women, drove him to the remote Kingdom Come State Park in eastern Kentucky and assaulted him in April 2011. "You're gonna die, you ... faggot! You deserve this!" Pennington testified.
The victim said he curled into a ball on the road to protect himself, and when the men went to look for a tire iron, he fled. Pennington said that because he feared for his life, he jumped over the side of the mountain, falling several feet down from the road, where he hid until his attackers left the scene.
During the trial, the prosecutors played the 911 tape when Pennington sought help.
"They're trying to kill me," Pennington told the 911 operator on April 4, 2011. "I didn't know what they were going to do. I think it's because I'm gay."
Prosecutors noted that the cousins had attacked Pennington’s boyfriend in 2009, but Pennington and his boyfriend escaped to safety.
The defense argued that case was about a drug deal gone bad, and accused Pennington of invoking the hate-crime angle to serve his own interests. Because Obama signed the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, the defense invoked the name of Obama in a rural region of the state where the President is unpopular.
Also, the defense contended that David Jason Jenkins had drank at least 21 beers on the day of the assault and was stoned, thus was too incapacitated to formulate a hate crime. The defense also claimed that Anthony Jenkins has an IQ of about 75 and is incapable of such a crime.