Eastern Kentucky man accused of assaulting gay man challenges federal hate-crimes law

An Eastern Kentucky man accused of assaulting a gay man because of his sexual orientation is challenging the federal hate-crimes law under which he is charged.

The attorney for Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Letcher County filed the challenge to part of the law Wednesday.

Jenkins and his cousin, David Jason Jenkins, in April became the first people in the United States charged under the federal law making it illegal to attack people based on their sexual orientation, U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey said at the time.

As a result, the challenge to the law will likely be closely watched.

David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, and Anthony Jenkins are charged with conspiracy, kidnapping and committing an act of violence based on the victim's sexual orientation.

Part of the hate-crimes law is unconstitutional because it impermissibly creates special protection for a class of people based on the sexual orientation of victims, Anthony Jenkins' attorney, Willis G. Coffey, argued in the motion filed Wednesday.

There is no compelling interest in providing more protection for gay crime victims than for others, and the Constitution bars doing so, the motion said.

The federal hate-crimes law once included protection based only on race, color, religion and national origin.

It was revised in 2009 to add crimes motivated by other factors, including the victim's gender or sexual orientation.

Anthony Jenkins is challenging only the section of the hate-crimes law dealing with sexual orientation.

His motion seeks to have that part struck down, along with the related charge against him, though he would still face other charges.

A grand jury charged that the Jenkinses attacked Kevin Pennington in April 2011 because he is gay.

Pennington, who is in his late 20s and lives in Letcher County, said the two hit him and stomped on him, leaving him with a torn ligament in his shoulder, a closed head injury, a torn ear and other injuries.

Anthony Jenkins' wife, Alexis Leeann Jenkins, and his sister Mable Ashley Jenkins, both 19, allegedly urged on the attack, yelling "kill that faggot," according to a court document.

The two women have pleaded guilty.

Anthony and David Jason Jenkins face potential life sentences.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader