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Reaction to hate crime trial verdict

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

LONDON, Ky. (WYMT) - United States Attorneys say they will continue to investigate hate crime allegations despite an Eastern Kentucky jury acquitting two men of hate crime charges.

The case against cousins Anthony and Jason Jenkins was the first trial to be prosecuted since the federal hate crimes law expanded to include sexual orientation in 2009.

The Kentucky Equality Federation is disappointed with the verdict but does not view this as a setback in the first trial of its kind since the hate crime law expanded to include sexual orientation.

"That's not a setback to me, when you get a prosecution of someone who allegedly tries to kidnap someone and then tries to murder them. To me, that's not a setback, not all counts are guilty but we still got a verdict on the kidnapping, so I don't see how anyone can view that as a setback really," said Jordan Palmer, Kentucky Equality Federation President.

Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Jenkins, 20, were accused of taking Kevin Pennington, 29, to Kingdom Come State Park on April 4th, 2011 and beating him with the intent to kill because he is gay. Two women who took a plea deal in the case, Ashley Jenkins, 20, and Alexis Jenkins, 19, testified they yelled profanity and anti-gay slurs at Pennington during the attack.

During the trial, defense attorneys argued the attack was over a drug deal instead. Jason Jenkins' attorney argued Pennington was taking them to a drug dealer the Jenkins believed was a police informant.

Although the jury acquitted on the hate crime charges, they convicted the two men on conspiracy and kidnapping charges.

"It's a split verdict. They're never what you want. Obviously we're happy we won the hate crime. He's a young kid. I strongly believed in him and his innocence, and I'm disappointed that he wasn't successful," said Willis Coffey, defense attorney for Anthony Jenkins.

The two defendants could still face up to life in prison on the kidnapping guilty verdicts.

"This is our system of justice. We just have to live with it. The good news is they still face life in prison," said Palmer.

The Department of Justice released a statement saying, "As the jury recognized through its verdict, this kidnapping and assault was a vicious and criminal act. The Department of Justice will continue to use every tool in our arsenal to vindicate the rights of victims of violent crimes," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The Department will also continue to vigorously investigate hate crime allegations and support state and local law enforcement in their efforts to identify these crimes."

Anthony and Jason Jenkins are scheduled to be sentenced on February 21st, 2013.

Willis Coffey, Anthony Jenkins' attorney, says he expects to appeal.

The two women who pleaded guilty in the case, Ashley and Alexis Jenkins, do not have a sentencing date set yet.

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