Four face federal charges after allegedly assaulting gay man

bestep@herald-leader.comMarch 14, 2012 

Four people face federal charges in the alleged kidnapping of a gay man in Harlan County who said they attacked him because of his sexual orientation.

The four aided one another in kidnapping Kevin Pennington and holding him for the purpose of assaulting him, according to a federal complaint sworn out by Anthony M. Sankey, an FBI agent.

The alleged crime was a federal offense because the four used instruments of interstate commerce in the crime: a Chevrolet Silverado pickup and U.S. 119, a federal road.

Charged are David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland; Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, and his wife, Alexis Leeann Jenkins, 19, of Partridge; and Mable Ashley Jenkins, 19, also of Partridge.

The two men are cousins, and Mable Ashley Jenkins, who goes by Ashley, is Anthony Jenkins' sister, Pennington has said.

It is a federal crime to attack a person because of his or her sexual orientation. The four have not been charged under that federal hate-crimes law, but defense attorneys said it's likely they will be.

Alleged violence against a gay person "is going to get you a hate crime," said Andrew M. Stephens, a Lexington attorney who represents David Jason Jenkins.

The four had their initial appearance in federal court in London on Wednesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins said in court that the government would ask to have all four held in jail until the trial. They face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The alleged assault that led to the charges happened last year.

Pennington, 28, of Letcher County, said he had known the four for years and once had had a relationship with a male relative of Anthony and Ashley Jenkins.

Pennington told the Herald-Leader that about a week before the alleged kidnapping, Ashley Jenkins asked him to go out with her, but he turned her down in pointed terms, angering her.

Pennington said he also had rejected advances from David Jason Jenkins.

Sankey, the FBI agent, said in a sworn statement that Pennington told him that the two young women came to his home on April 4 and that Ashley Jenkins said she wanted some Suboxone. That is a pain medication often abused in Kentucky.

Pennington said he already had arranged to get a Suboxone strip. The two agreed that Ashley Jenkins would drive Pennington to get the drug and pay for it if he would share it with her, according to Sankey's affidavit.

David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins were in the truck outside.

The group skipped the drug buy because some of them were concerned the source was cooperating with police. Instead, Anthony Jenkins drove to Kingdom Come State Park, just outside Cumberland, refusing Pennington's request to let him out.

Jenkins parked on a trail, then he and Jason Jenkins dragged Pennington from the truck and began punching and kicking him, he told Sankey.

Pennington said the two women cheered on the attack, yelling "Kill that faggot," and "You're going to die out here," Sankey said in his statement.

During a lull in the attack, Pennington was able to run away and hide in the woods. He waited until the four stopped looking for him and left, then limped to a ranger station and called for help.

Pennington said he sustained various injuries, including bruises over much of his body, a torn ligament in his shoulder, a closed-head injury and a torn ear.

Jason and Anthony Jenkins were charged in Harlan County with attempted murder, and Ashley and Alexis Jenkins with complicity.

In statements to police, Anthony, Ashley and Alexis Jenkins pointed to Jason Jenkins as the main aggressor. Jason Jenkins admitted hitting Pennington but said Anthony Jenkins hit him first, according to his statement.

Jason Jenkins told his ex-wife in a call recorded at the jail that Anthony Jenkins didn't like Pennington because he was gay.

A woman who was in jail with Ashley and Alexis Jenkins said the two had bragged about helping plan the attack and talked of how funny Pennington looked lying on the ground while the men beat him, according to Sankey's affidavit.

Commonwealth's Attorney Henry Johnson said Wednesday that he would drop the state charges against the four. The stiffer potential penalty and the lack of parole in the federal court system make it a better venue to handle the case, Johnson said.

The Kentucky Equality Federation, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and intersex people, had urged federal authorities to investigate the alleged attack on Pennington, arguing it was a hate crime motivated by his sexual orientation.

Jordan Palmer, president of the federation, applauded the federal charges in the case.

"In a civil society, we must live together in peace and harmony," Palmer said in a statement. "We cannot allow citizens to be targeted because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, Latino, or any other manner you can separate and label a person."

Bill Estep: (606) 678-4655. Twitter: @billestep1

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