Times-Tribune Staff Report
Four Harlan County relatives faced U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove Wednesday in federal court in London for the kidnapping and assault of Kevin Pennington, a resident of Letcher County at the time of the crimes.
Two of those sentenced pleaded guilty more than a year ago to charges that includes violating the sexual orientation provision of the federal Matthew Shepard James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
They were the first two people convicted in the nation under this provision of the federal act.
Pennington was attacked because he is gay, according to court documents.
David Jason Jenkins, 39, received 30 years in prison.
His cousin, Anthony Ray Jenkins, 22, received a 17-year sentence.
Mable Ashley Jenkins, 20, Anthony Jenkins’ sister and David Jenkins’ cousin, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison.
Alexis LeeAnn Jenkins, 20, Anthony Jenkins’ wife, received eight years in prison.
Both women pleaded guilty in April 2012 to aiding and abetting Pennington’s kidnapping and assault, as well as aiding and abetting the hate crime assault against Pennington.
In October 2012, a federal jury in London convicted Jason Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins of kidnapping and conspiracy charges related to the April 4, 2011 assault of Pennington. The jury acquitted the men of violating the sexual orientation provision of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Testimony at trial established the two cousins carried out the crime with help from Ashley Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins, who testified against the defendants.
Evidence at trial established the four relatives planned in advance to kidnap and assault Pennington, take him to a remote location and then beat him to death.
After luring Pennington by false pretenses into a truck driven by Anthony Jenkins, the group drove Pennington up a deserted mountain road into Kingdom Come State Park, where they dragged Pennington into the road and began to beat him.
Evidence further established Pennington managed to escape while the two men were searching in the back of the truck for a tire iron to use to kill Pennington.
Pennington ran off the road and threw himself over a ledge, where he hid behind a rock until the group finally gave up searching for him and drove away. Pennington staggered part-way down the mountain, where he found a ranger shack, broke a window and called 911.
Ashley Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins both testified they and the men agreed in advance to lure Pennington into the truck, drive him to that deserted area and beat him because of his
The women added that during the beating, they all used anti-gay slurs and made it known the group intended to kill Pennington.
“Justice imposes a heavy price on those who engage in the sort of gratuitous violence that led to this prosecution,” said Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “The defendants’ crimes were brutal and cruel.”
He added that society will not tolerate this type of violence.
“They fully deserve the sentences delivered by the Court,” Harvey said. “The team of dedicated professionals who investigated and successfully prosecuted this case are to be congratulated for their fine work. We also thank our state and local partners who played an important role in achieving a just result in this matter.”
Perrye K. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Kentucky, agreed.
“We are pleased that this matter has been successfully resolved and that justice has been done,” Turner said. “We feel the length of the sentences sufficiently reflects the seriousness of these violent acts.”
This case was investigated by Special Agents Anthony Sankey and Mike Brown with the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Trial Attorney Angie Cha from the Civil Rights Division.