Trial Starts In Federal Hate Crime Case Against Two Cousins Charged With Beating Of Gay Man
LONDON, KY -- The trial of two men charged in an alleged anti-gay hate crime in Harlan County, Kentucky, got underway in U. S. District Court Wednesday. Anthony Ray Jenkins and his cousin David Jason Jenkins were indicted by a federal grand jury under the guidelines established by the federal Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Hate Crimes Statue. Federal prosecutors say this is the first case in the nation charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the Act, which was passed in 2009. [The federal law that makes it illegal to attack someone based on the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation.]
In testimony Wednesday morning, Mable Ashley Jenkins, sister of Anthony Ray Jenkins and a cousin of David Jason Jenkins, told the court that the two men targeted their victim, Kevin Pennington "because he would be an easy target because he was gay."
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hydee Hawkins said the Jenkins cousins had attacked a friend of the victim in 2009 and then "had decided to attack Pennington last year over that unfinished business."
According to the indictment documents, the incident began when the two men, accompanied by Anthony Jenkins' 19-year-old wife, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins of Partridge, and his sister, Mable Ashley Jenkins, 19, took the victim against his will into Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland in Harlan County on April 4, 2011, and severely beat him while yelling slurs about his sexual orientation.
FBI Special Agent Anthony M. Sankey stated in an affidavit that the women allegedly cheered on the attack, yelling "kill that faggot."
Pennington said he was able to escape during a lull in the attack, and hid in the woods until the four stopped looking for him. Pennington suffered numerous injuries, including bruises over much of his body, a torn ligament in his shoulder, a closed-head injury and a torn ear.
Anthony Jenkins' wife, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins, testified that she took part in the plan to lure Pennington into Anthony Jenkins' pickup truck with a false story that she wanted Pennington to buy drugs for her.
"The real plan was to take him to a remote area of Kingdom Come State Park and attack him, she said. "They was going to take him up on the park and beat him to death, then dispose of the body."
Defence attorney Willis Coffey, who represents Anthony Jenkins, in his opening argument acknowledged that there was an altercation involving the two men and Pennington, but denied that the incident was based on the victim's sexual orientation.
According to Coffey, the victim went with the Jenkins' to purchase drugs, but Jason Jenkins was concerned that the person Pennington planned to deal with was a police informant.
"[Anthony] Jenkins was drunk and high; he and Pennington argued, and it escalated," Coffey said. "There was simply an argument that led to a fight because Jason Jenkins was out of his head," Coffey told the court.
Coffey also challenged Mable Ashley Jenkins' account of the incident, claiming that she has told inconsistent stories in the case. Pointing out that both women had previously entered guilty pleas in exchange for a better sentencing deal with prosecutors. Coffey suggested that she lied about the alleged plan to attack Pennington because of his sexual orientation so she could get the best deal she could.
Anti-Gay Group Condemns School District For Transgender-Inclusive Policies
According to the policy, a court-ordered name or gender change is not required. Students also have the right to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to their gender identity.
The decision came under immediate fire from the Illinois Family Institute, a Illinois Christian group which has been named as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-gay vitriol.
In a statement released Tuesday, the IFI called the school board's decision "biased, radical, and offensive" to taxpayers, warning that it could very well "embolden activists all over the state and country."
"Apparently, all that’s needed for school personnel to be compelled to participate in a fiction is for a student to pretend 'consistently' at school that he or she is the opposite sex. The school board is now imposing non-objective, 'progressive' moral, philosophical, and political beliefs—not facts—about gender confusion on the entire school.
This feckless school board has made a decision to accommodate, not the needs of gender-confused teens, but their disordered desires and the desires of gender/sexuality anarchists who exploit public education for their perverse ends."
A spokesperson for the IFI also claimed that "Transgender individuals "suffer" from a "mental and moral disorder."
"The Illinois Family Institute and its affiliates spew venomous lies about efforts to ensure safe school environments for our children,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois. “This is not how we talk about school children or the responsible school authorities who are looking out for the students' interests."
In an email Wednesday to LGBTQNation, Harper Jean Tobin, the Director of Policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality wrote:
"While we have not seen the full text of the policy, what has been reported is in line with best practices being followed by many school districts throughout the country, from major metropolitan districts to suburban and small-town schools.
Education, child development and medical experts agree that for transgender students, being able to live true to their identity is essential to their well-being and educational success. It’s also critical to bullying prevention and ensuring compliance with nondiscrimination laws.
It’s unfortunate that fringe groups are trying to stir up hostility toward these young people and educators who them to have the same opportunities as other students.
While the Illinois Family Institute refers to these youth as “disordered,” the American Psychiatric Association recently recognized that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about being transgender, and that the appropriate treatment for youth with gender dysphoria is to support them in expressing their gender identity – which is just what this policy helps parents and teachers do."
The Beacon-News reported Wednesday afternoon that after E-mails and letters from outraged residents and anti-gay organizations across the state flooded school board members' offices, the board sent out a terse announcement that it would meet Friday evening to potentially rescind the policy. “The board never at any time came up with this (policy) on their own,” School Board President Annette Johnson said Wednesday. “We usually follow (the Illinois Sate Board of Education), and their recommendations,” Johnson said.
“All of us thought, ‘Oh jeez, this is another bullying policy we should comply with.’... Administrators are constantly bringing policy forward.” Johnson said the board never meant to cause controversy. “We will wait on the ISBE to come up with any policy (regarding transgender students),” she said. “That’s what we usually do.”Johnson said that she has received e-mails from both supporters and opponents of the policy — but that most of the messages originated from outside the district.