Indictments on gay federal hate crime thanks to Kentucky Equality Federation; Kentucky is the first in the nation to use the federal lawApr 13th, 2012 | By Kentucky Guardian Contributors & Staff | Category: Kentucky Guardian News, Kentucky Political News, Lead Story
April 12, 2012 will forever be a day to remember in the history of the gay and lesbian community especially for Kentuckians. Two Eastern Kentucky men are the first in the nation to be charged under the section of the federal hate-crimes law that makes it illegal to attack people based on their sexual orientation, said U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey.
The push however to get the case to a federal level came from Kentucky Equality Federation, and advocacy and public advocate non-profit.
“The bigger picture here is that the U.S. attorney’s office is sending a message that you don’t try to hurt someone and you don’t injure them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, a civil-rights group that lobbied the Department of Justice to intervene in the case. (reported by the The Associated Press)
After multiple disputes with Harlan County Commonwealth Attorney Henry Johnson, Kentucky Equality Federation officially requested the case be federalized on August 24, 2011. Thanks to Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer and Southeastern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor, Kentucky will be the first state the federal hate crimes law will be used.
History of Recent Hate Crimes in Harlan County
Tracking press releases issued by Kentucky Equality Federation, as well as considerable media coverage, Jordan Palmer the president of Kentucky’s largest advocacy group was apparently unhappy with the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
On April 04, 2011 Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer orders Assistant Southern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor to begin an investigation into a hate crime involving Kevin Pennington after Kentucky Equality Federation’s Discrimination, Hate Crimes and School Bullying Committee was notified when someone called their toll-free number (877) KEF-5775.
On August 22, 2011 Kentucky Equality Federation condemns the brutal attack of a lesbian couple and their children in Harlan County, questions the integrity of the presiding Judge, and urges the Kentucky Chief Justice John T. Minton, Jr. to remove the Judge from the bench and begin an investigation into his conduct.
On August 24, 2011, Kentucky Equality Federation after continued frustration with Harlan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Henry Johnson, Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer officially requests federal intervention stating:
As you are aware, Kentucky Equality Federation received a hate crime complaint from the County of Harlan, a subdivision of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
The victims in this complaint believe this to be a hate crime as outlined in our press release dated August 22, 2011 (http://community.kyequality.org/2011/08/kentucky-equality-federation-condemns.html) that you received a copy of and we have corresponded by email.
Though the Commonwealth has a hate crime law, which has been used in Judicial Circuits throughout the Commonwealth, we are not aware of it ever being used in Southern or Southeastern Kentucky.
Southeastern Kentucky communities are primarily rural communities with municipal populations less than 10,000 citizens. Kentucky Equality Federation and its legal representation have witnessed before the manner in which these courts operates because Judges as well as the County and Commonwealth’s Attorney are elected to office and not appointed by the Governor or Chief Justice of the Commonwealth. As such, the Judges, County and Commonwealth’s Attorney must keep the bulk of the population happy with their service to the Commonwealth or they risk not being re-elected to office and taking a stand to protect victims of hate crimes, especially members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex community is politically dangerous to them, thus, justice rarely prevails.
Kentucky Equality Federation was contacted by the victims of this case to act as their public advocate because they do not believe justice will prevail. In addition, the victims have reported they have already been informed of alleged ex parte meetings taking place in reference to this case in which the prosecutor was not involved or invited.
Kentucky Equality Federation, at the request of the victims hereby requests the United States Department of Justice move to this case to federal court where neither prosecutors nor Judges are elected to office. This case clearly falls within the hate crimes legislation signed by U.S. President Obama.
On August 26, 2011, Kevin Pennington communicated with Assistant Southern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor who refers Mr. Pennington to the Office of the President.
On September 19, 2011, Kevin Pennington contacts Kentucky Equality Federation for help with his pleas for action from the Harlan County Commonwealth’s Attorney going unanswered. Until this point, Kevin Pennington was afraid to contact Kentucky Equality Federation with local officials telling him that Kentucky Equality Federation could do nothing to help him. (Kentucky Guardian™ is sure they are eating those words now)
On September 19, 2011 Kentucky Equality Federation reported: Kentucky Equality Federation continues to communicate with officials from the U.S. Department of Justice, including Walter Atkinson, Senior Conciliation Specialist for Region IV with the Community Relations Service, Robin Dull, with the Civil Enforcement Section, and Bobbi Bernstein, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Section, Civil Rights Division. We now have two (2) hate crimes in the same county of the Commonwealth.
On September 20, 2011 Kentucky Equality Federation issued a media blackout. Neither the Turner nor the Pennington family may speak to any reporter because of ongoing investigations.
Also on September 19, 2011 Kentucky Equality Federation Vice President of Policy & Public Relations Joshua Koch echoed the frustrations of President Palmer, stating: “The Kentucky Equality Federation demands that the Commonwealth of Kentucky defend Pennington, an innocent citizen who was kidnapped, beaten, threatened with rape, and who must now live in fear of his attackers, who are free to do as they please with no sort of restraint or intervention. The integrity of Kentucky’s criminal justice system is now under a microscope and jeopardized by abandoning such a man to the whims of four individuals with a demonstrated propensity toward extreme violence,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation Vice President of Public Relations and Media, Joshua Koch. “Pennington reports that attorneys for the defendants have badgered Pennington to drop charges or accept a summary judgment from the bench rather than seeking a jury trial, Pennington has been prevented from seeking an emergency protection order. Kentucky Equality Federation is the Commonwealth’s largest advocate for equal treatment of all citizens. As our mission statement explains, “Kentucky Equality Federation believes all people are endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment free from oppression, discrimination, school bullying, and hate crimes, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, veteran status, political affiliation, or any other defining characteristic.”
- See notes below for events that occurred on November 09, 2011.
On April 12, 2012 a federal grand jury indicted people involved in the case. However, none of this would have been possible without Kentucky Equality Federation.
The exchanges became so heated that the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service held some sort of mediation meeting between the Harlan County Commonwealth’s Attorney and Kentucky Equality Federation officials at an undisclosed located in November as reported by WKYT-TV 27 Newsfirst. Attending for Kentucky Equality Federation was President Jordan Palmer, Southern Kentucky Regional Director Shannon McKinney, Transgender Outreach Director Tyler Watts, and Religious Communities Outreach Director Minister Edith Baker, Ph.D. The names of the representatives from the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the U.S. Department of Justice were not released to the media at the request of both parties.
On November 09, 2011, Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer stated: “This meeting has been planned for months, reaching a date acceptable to everyone was the most difficult part,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “We applaud officials from the Commonwealth and the United States Department of Justice for addressing our concerns. Mr. Walter Atkinson with the United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service has worked very hard to make this meeting possible.”
Obviously, Kentucky Equality Federation has left out due to the nature of the crimes and to prevent hindering a federal investigation. Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer and Southern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor maintain their primary responsibility is to protect Mr. Pennington and to pursue justice.
The Kevin Pennington Hate Crime
Pennington suffered injuries to his back, face, neck and ear in the attack at Kingdom Come State Park, a mountaintop park covering more than 1,200 acres of pristine pine-covered wilderness in the mountainous Appalachian region. He was subsequently treated and released from a hospital.
An FBI affidavit said Pennington went for a ride with the two men and two other women, but asked to be taken home after a few minutes. Pennington told investigators that David Jenkins demanded a sexual favor from Pennington, which was refused. Then the man said David Jenkins threatened to violently rape him, according to the affidavit.
The truck stopped in the park because a tree had fallen across the road and Anthony and David Jenkins pulled Pennington out of the truck and attacked him. The women in the truck, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins and Mable Ashley Jenkins, have been charged with kidnapping and aiding a kidnapping, authorities said.
The men pulled Pennington out of their truck, hit him and kicked him while “making anti-homosexual statements,” according to the FBI affidavit.
“During the attack (the victim) was covering his face and they were all screaming ‘how do you like this faggot?’” the affidavit said.
Lex18 (exclusive interview)