US gay hate-crime law leads to its first indictments

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In the first set of indictments that follows from a federal hate crime law which protects against attacks motivated by sexual orientation, two women from Kentucky have pleaded guilty to helping in the kidnap and assault of a gay man.

According to the Associated Press, the US Attorney Office in Lexington has released a statement that Mable Ashley Jenkins and Alexis LeAnn Jenkins, cousins both 19 years of age, have pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the kidnapping of and hate-motivated assault on a man last April, at a mountaintop Appalachian park in southeast of Kentucky. They will be sentenced in August.

However, two others involved in the same case, David Jason Jenkins (37) and Anthony Ray Jenkins (20), have pleaded not guilty to the charges, and their trial is set for June 18.

The cases described here mark the first use of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009. Mr Shepherd was a gay teenager who, in the town of Laramie in Wyoming, died after being tied to a fence and savagely beaten. The incident took place in 1998, the same year that Mr Byrd, an African-American, was killed in Texas by white supremacists.

The victim, Kevin Pennington, was lured by the four involved into a pick-up truck, and, according to the indictment, driven to Kingdom Come State Park, where they allegedly assaulted him. The lawyer for the Jenkins cousins, however, said that it was a case of “drug deal gone bad.” If convicted through the trial, the men could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.