Wife of defendant in alleged hate crime says he bragged about beating a gay man

bestep@herald-leader.comOctober 18, 2012 

LONDON — Two men accused of attacking a gay Letcher County resident because of his sexual orientation bragged about the assault, the wife of one testified Thursday.

Anthony Jenkins and his cousin Jason Jenkins showed no shame when telling a family member how they had beaten Kevin Pennington during a late-night attack in April 2011, Alexis Jenkins said.

"It was like, you know, 'We whupped that faggot,'" said Alexis Jenkins, 19, who is married to Anthony Jenkins.

She testified in U.S. District Court in London, where Anthony and Jason Jenkins are on trial.

They are charged with conspiracy, with kidnapping Pennington,and with injuring him because of his sexual orientation.

The charges were the first in the nation under a section of the federal hate-crimes law that outlaws attacks based on the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation.

The two could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

One key issue jurors will have to decide is whether they believe the two targeted Pennington, 29, because he is gay.

Defense attorneys have acknowledged Pennington was beaten.

But they've said the altercation resulted from other factors, such as drug and alcohol abuse, not from Pennington's sexuality.

However, Alexis Jenkins testified that Pennington's sexual orientation was the motivation behind the plan her husband and Jason Jenkins came up with to attack Pennington.

Pennington had had a relationship with a brother of Anthony Jenkins. When she told Anthony Jenkins of letters she'd seen about the relationship, he was upset and "said it was nasty," Alexis Jenkins said.

Alexis Jenkins, a high-school dropout with a drug problem, married Anthony Jenkins just a week before the April 2011 attack, after dating him for two weeks, according to testimony.

She said she and Ashley Jenkins, Anthony's sister, lured Pennington out of his house with a false request for him to help obtain drugs.

Anthony and Jason Jenkins waited in a pickup outside, with caps pulled low to shield their faces and the interior light off so Pennington wouldn't recognize them, Alexis Jenkins said.

The group took Pennington to a secluded spot in Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland, where the two men dragged Pennington from the truck and punched, kicked and stomped him while all of four of them yelled anti-gay slurs, Alexis Jenkins said.

Pennington curled into the fetal position on the ground and begged them to stop, she said.

Pennington "sounded sad, like he was in pain," she said.

Pennington escaped into the woods while the two men looked in the truck for a tire iron with which to hit him.

Alexis and Ashley Jenkins pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors. Alexis Jenkins wept during her testimony Thursday, saying it was hard to testify against her husband.

She said she did so in hopes of getting a lesser sentence.

Attorneys for Anthony and Jason Jenkins have tried to hammer at the credibility of the two young women, saying they lied because they were afraid of potentially long prison terms.

Defense attorneys also have pointed out that both women have said many times outside court that the attack was motivated by drugs, not Pennington's sexual orientation.

However, both women said they lied in the earlier statements and told the truth in court.

"I didn't want anybody else to know we beat up a gay dude," Alexis Jenkins said in explaining why she lied earlier.

The four also cooked up a cover story that the assault stemmed from a drug deal gone bad, she said.

Alexis and Ashley Jenkins have acknowledged being bisexual, and Alexis said she thought Jason Jenkins was gay, though he was married.

Anthony Jenkins' attorney, Willis Coffey, said it made no sense that the three would have attacked Pennington because he is gay, given their sexual orientation, but Alexis Jenkins insisted it was true.

In other testimony Thursday, Pennington admitted he first lied to the FBI about why he got into the truck with his attackers.

Pennington went along expecting to buy drugs, but he told the FBI he went with the others to buy pop and cigarettes, he said.

Pennington said he didn't tell the FBI the truth until agents received telephone records that showed he called a drug dealer just before the attack.

However, he said his initial lie didn't change the fact that the Jenkins cousins attacked him over his sexual orientation.

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

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