April 12, 2012
By Scottie Thomaston
Back in 2009, Congress passed and the president signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to add, among other things, gender identity and sexual orientation to existing federal hate crimes statute. Today, a federal grand jury issued the first ever indictment against someone accused of an anti-gay attack under the Act. The Justice Department issued a statement, saying:
“A federal grand jury in London, Ky., returned a three-count indictment charging David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, for kidnapping and assaulting Kevin Pennington, and for conspiring with each other and with other unnamed individuals to commit the kidnapping. The indictment charges the men with committing a hate crime in violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal jurisdiction to include certain assaults motivated by someone’s sexual orientation.”
The indictment charges two people with kidnapping and assaulting an openly gay man, Kevin Pennington. The Huffington Post article linked above says that:
The Lexington Herald-Leader cites a court document that claims Jenkins’ wife Alexis and sister Mable, cheered on the attack, yelling gay slurs such as “Kill that faggot.”
Questions have persisted since the law’s passage about whether and when it will actually be enforced by federal law enforcement officials, and now a case will finally move forward. It is possible that the defendants could face life in prison if they are convicted of the charges.