Joe P. Asher
The first full day of testimony in the trial of two men accused of committing a hate crime began Wednesday in U.S. District Court in London.
David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, are charged with kidnapping and assaulting Kevin Pennington in April of last year.
“This case is about the two defendants, Jason and Anthony Jenkins, planning to kill Kevin Pennington because he was gay,” said Hawkins.
Hawkins made the jury aware the U.S. contends that the reason behind the alleged abduction and beating of Pennington is due to his sexual orientation and nothing else. According to Hawkins, the defendants shouted derogatory homosexual slurs at Pennington while they beat him and later bragged about it to friends and acquaintances.
Hawkins noted that the defendants used “the perfect lure” for Pennington when Ashley Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins appeared at Pennington’s residence and told him they were going to acquire Suboxone, a highly potent drug.
Andrew Stephens, Attorney for Jason Jenkins, argued the case was not about Pennington being gay, but about drug and alcohol use.
“I will concede there was an ugly fight at the top of that mountain,” said Stephens. “I do not concede why that fight went down.”
Stephens suggested that Ashley Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins, who were arrested along with Jason Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins, had pleaded guilty and were cooperating with the government in order to “save their skins.”
“At the end of the day…you’re going to have to think about what motivates people,” said Stephens.
Anthony Jenkins’ attorney Willis Coffey began his opening statement by telling the jury “it is a pleasure to represent Anthony.”
Coffey argued that the case is about nothing more than a fight between Jason Jenkins and Pennington.
“When it’s all said and done, the evidence will show Anthony is not guilty,” said Coffey.
Coffey stated there was no plan to kidnap Pennington, and the fight was because of an argument between Jason Jenkins and Pennington. Coffey stated the reason for the fight was because Jason Jenkins was highly intoxicated.
Hawkins called Ashley Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, as the government’s first witness.
Ashley Jenkins testified that although she has entered into a plea agreement and is cooperating with the government, there have been no promises made to her regarding a lighter sentence. She pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting in the kidnapping and assault of Pennington.
“I agreed to go to Kevin’s and lure him out so they could fight him,” said Ashley Jenkins.
According to Ashely Jenkins’ testimony, Anthony Jenkins and Jason Jenkins said they were going to take Pennington to the park, beat him to death and toss the body over the mountain or in a hole. Ashley Jenkins testified the two men said it was better to do the crime in Letcher County because the family had “pull” and would not do any jail time.
Coffey argued during his cross examination that Ashley Jenkins had previously said she would do anything to get out of going to jail for life.
According to Coffey, Ashley Jenkins has told friends and family through letters and conversation that the altercation with Pennington was over drugs and didn’t have anything to do with Pennington being gay.
Under cross examination from Stephens, Ashley Jenkins said she lied to police and had stated in letters she could not do 25 years to life in prison.
Hawkins then called Pennington to the stand.
Pennington testified that he did go willingly with Ashley Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins, but when he recognized the defendants, he asked to be let out of the truck they were riding in and was refused.
Pennington stated that Anthony Jenkins drove the group to a secluded place on Little Shepherd Trail, and upon encountering a log in the road stopped the truck. Anthony Jenkins and Jason Jenkins got out, opened the back door and began beating him. After pulling him from the truck, the two men continued beating and began kicking and stomping him.
Pennington said he begged Ashley Jenkins for help, but was ignored.
According to Pennington, Ashley Jenkins, Alexis Jenkins, Anthony Jenkins and Jason Jenkins all yelled homosexual slurs at him during the beating, and told him they were going to kill him. When the beating stopped and Anthony and Jason Jenkins went back to the truck to get a tire iron, Pennington jumped over the side of the cliff.
“I knew I was going over one way or another, and I figured I had a better chance going over alive than waiting on them to kill me,” said Pennington.
Pennington said he hid and waited on the group to leave. After the truck left, Pennington said he made his way to the park ranger station, eventually breaking a window in a nearby vacant house. He then located a telephone and called 911.
Testimony continues today at 9:30 a.m.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org