Guilty pleas entered in Kentucky hate crime case

David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins

By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer

(CNN) – Two Kentucky women have pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a kidnapping and hate-crime assault involving a gay man, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Mable Ashley Jenkins and Alexis LeAnn Jenkins entered guilty pleas Wednesday, according to the Justice Department. The pleas were under seal for two days.

The two women, both 19, admitted they lured Kevin Pennington into a pickup in April 2011.

David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, allegedly were waiting in the vehicle and drove Pennington to Kingdom Come State Park in Kentucky and beat him. The two men, who are cousins, pleaded not guilty Thursday to kidnapping and assault charges.

Alexis Jenkins is married to Anthony Jenkins, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Mable Jenkins is Anthony Jenkins’ sister and she is a cousin of David Jenkins.

The Justice Department said the case marks the first use of the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to bring a case alleging a violation of the sexual orientation provision of the statute.

Alexis and Mable Jenkins will have a sentencing hearing in August. The charges they admitted to carry a maximum of life. Their plea agreements remain under seal.

Andrew Stevens, a lawyer for David Jenkins, told CNN Thursday that he believes the two women are cooperating witnesses against David and Anthony Jenkins.

Stevens expressed concern about the use of the hate crime statute.

“It’s hard to say how you get in someone’s head and say this has to do with homosexuality,” Stevens said. “It’s quite a burden for the government to prove, and I have a suspicion we’re in for a fist fight.”

Stevens said his view of the case is that there was “an altercation” about a “drug deal gone bad.”

Anthony Jenkins’ lawyer has not returned messages from CNN seeking comment.

“David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins made a plan to assault Pennington because of his sexual orientation,” according to the indictment against the men. The men wore clothing to try to hide their identities and disabled a light inside the truck to affect Pennington’s ability to see, the indictment says.

The two men are scheduled to stand trial June 18 and if convicted, face a maximum of life in prison.

Matthew Shephard was a gay teenager who died after being tied to a fence in Wyoming and beaten in 1998. James Byrd was an African-American man killed in Texas the same year when he was dragged to death.