by Brett Barrouquere, Associated Press
LONDON, Kentucky (AP)—The first U.S. prosecution under a new federal law against anti-gay violence ended with a Kentucky jury acquitting two men of hate-crime charges while finding them guilty of kidnapping in a 2011 attack on a gay man.
Prosecutors had argued that Anthony Ray Jenkins and cousin David Jason Jenkins attacked 29-year-old Kevin Pennington at a rural park because of Pennington’s sexual orientation, violating a hate crime law that was expanded in 2009 to cover assaults motivated by bias against gays, lesbians and transgender people.
It was not clear why jurors late Wednesday rejected that argument.
Anthony Jenkins’ attorney, Willis Coffey, said jurors didn’t find Pennington’s account credible.
Pennington let out a sigh when the not-guilty verdicts on the hate-crimes charges were announced. He left without talking to news reporters.
The cousins are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 21.
Coffey said Pennington pushed the idea that he was attacked for being gay to serve his own political agenda. Coffey invoked the name of President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Kentucky and lost badly in the state four years ago.
“If the government and President Obama want to bow to the special-interest groups, that’s their business, but they picked the wrong case,” Coffey said.
Throughout the trial, the defense argued that any dispute between the Jenkinses and Pennington was over a drug deal gone sour.
U.S. Justice Department civil rights attorney AeJean Cha told jurors that the Jenkins cousins and two women planned to kidnap, beat and kill Pennington because of his sexual orientation.
“This is not about drugs, this is about the fact that Kevin is gay,” Cha said.
In Pennington’s emergency call after the attack, his voice can be heard cracking.
“They’re trying to kill me,” Pennington told the operator on April 4, 2011. “I didn’t know what they were going to do. I think it’s because I’m gay.”