Federal officials in Kentucky announced on Friday that two women have pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the April 2011 kidnapping and hate crime assault against a gay man.
Officials said the two women, Mable Ashley Jenkins and Alexis LeeAnn Jenkins, both 19, became the first two individuals convicted under the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for a sexual orientation related offense.
The announcement of the guilty pleas came one day after the U.S. Justice Department in Washington announced that a federal grand jury had indicted two men in Kentucky who are implicated in the same case. The indictment charges David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, who are cousins, with conspiracy, kidnapping, and committing an act of violence based on the victim’s sexual orientation.
“The women admitted they lured [Kevin] Pennington into a truck with two other defendants, Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins,” says a statement released Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
“The truck was driven to an Eastern Kentucky state park where Pennington was allegedly assaulted by the male defendants,” the statement says. “Both women waived their right to be indicted and pleaded guilty to the charges brought by U.S. Attorney [Kerry B.] Harvey and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.”
It says the two women entered their guilty pleas in separate court appearances earlier this week. The two will appear for sentencing in August, according to the statement.
The statement says Anthony Ray Jenkins and David Jason Jenkins pleaded not guilty at an arraignment on Thursday. A trial date for the two has been set for June 18.
Justice Department officials said their indictment marks the first time anyone has been charged with violating the sexual orientation provision of the Shepard-Byrd hate crimes act.
Jordan Palmer, president of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Kentucky Equality Federation, told the Blade his organization sent letters to Justice Department officials last year calling on the department to become involved in the case.
“Kentucky Equality Federation requested that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice federalize the case because local judges must keep the bulk of the population happy in order to remain in office,” Palmer said in a statement released on Wednesday.
“Prosecuting a gay hate crime in the Southern District of the Commonwealth would definitely damage their chances for re-election,” said Palmer.