Four relatives were sentenced in federal court yesterday for kidnapping a gay man and attempting to beat him to death in a case that tried out the new federal hate crime provision covering crimes motivated by sexual orientation. Prosecutors say two women convinced Kevin Pennington to get into their truck with a story that they needed his help getting drugs; joined by David Jenkins, 39, and cousin Anthony Jenkins, 22, the four took him into a deserted part of a Kentucky state park. According to testimony, the men attacked him as the women shouted gay slurs; the men were looking for a tire iron to kill him with when Pennington escaped.
David and Anthony were both convicted of kidnapping and conspiracy, earning them 30 and 17 years in prison, respectively, but CNN reports that in a major disappointment for the Justice Department, they were both acquitted on the hate crime charges. Attorneys for the men argued the assault had nothing to do with Pennington's sexual orientation, but that the elder Jenkins believed they were en route to a seller who was a police informant, and went ballistic, reports the Herald-Leader. Their cohorts Mable Jenkins (Anthony's sister) and Alexis Jenkins (Anthony's wife) became the first sentenced under the new hate crime provisions, but they pleaded guilty to those charges, as part of a deal to testify against the men. Each got eight years in prison, with Mable getting an additional four months. (Read more hate crime stories.)