Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Two Kentucky Men Charged By Feds With Anti-Gay Hate Crime: First Use of U.S. Hate Crimes Law

Cousins Anthony Ray Jenkins (l) and David Jason Jenkins (r), indicted under the Shepard/Byrd Hate Crimes Act for anti-gay attack.

Lexington, Kentucky – Two cousins face the first charges filed by the Federal Government under the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for attacking a gay man, as announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lexington.  According to the Associated Press, David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, Kentucky, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, Kentucky were indicted early this week by a federal grand jury for a savage April 2011 attack upon Kevin Pennington, a gay man who refused to perform sexual acts upon the cousins.  The Jenkins cousins were also indicted on federal kidnapping, assault, and conspiracy charges. Both men pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, each defendant could face a life sentence in prison.

CNN quotes the indictment as saying that the cousins enlisted two women to entice Pennington to get into their pickup truck on April 4, 2011 for a trip into the pristine wilderness of the Kingdom Come State Park in Harlan.  “David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins made a plan to assault Pennington because of his sexual orientation,” the indictment reads. The men wore clothing that made it difficult to see who they were, and disabled the dome light inside the pickup to further obscure their identities.  The FBI affadavit says that when David Jason Jenkins demanded Pennington service him sexually, Pennington refused. Jenkins threatened to rape him. The cousins stopped the truck, dragged Pennington out of the cab, and brutally assaulted him while shouting, “How do you like this, Faggot?”  Pennington reported to human rights advocates, “The whole time I screamed and begged them to stop, I was screaming I’m sorry for whatever I had done to make them want to do this to me. I can remember seeing bright flashes of light every time one of them would stomp or punch me in the head with them telling me he was going to rape me asking me if I was going to suck his [edited] how they would hold me down if they had to and how he was going to [edited] me in the [edited] dry until I bled.” Knocked unconscious, he lay on the forest floor. He awoke and managed to escape while his assailants were debating how best to dispose of his body. Pennington ran to a ranger station, broke a window to gain access to phone, and called police. He suffered multiple injuries, including wounds to his neck, head, back, and face. After treatment, Pennington was released from hospital care, but says he still struggles emotionally with the effects of the attack. Though the two women, Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins and Mable Ashley Jenkins, have been charged with kidnapping and aiding a kidnapping according to the authorities, Edgeonthenet says they have not been indicted by the federal grand jury.

This case is a landmark use of the Shepard/Byrd Act to prosecute an anti-gay hate crime in the nation, and interest around the nation is running high. Since the cousins used a truck and drove their victim on a federal roadway, the case fell under federal jurisdiction.  A U.S. Department of Justice statement read, in part, “The indictment marks the first federal case in the nation charging a violation of the sexual orientation section of the Federal Hate Crimes Law.” Human Rights Campaign’s Michael Cole-Schwartz, who worked for the passage of the Shepard/Byrd Act, said, “It’s vindicating to see that the years of hard work that went into making sure this law was on the books is now being put into place.” Kentucky Equality Federation president, Jordan Palmer, commented on the larger context of the case. “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,” he said. The Kentucky Equality Federation vigorously lobbied the U.S. Department of Justice to become involved in the case.

As a defense, the cousins claim that Pennington had approached them for illicit drugs, and the deal went bad, a common attempt on the part of perpetrators of hate crimes to deflect attention away from the heinous nature of their acts, and to defame the victim. The Jenkins cousins will face their day in court on June 18.

April 14, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Kentucky, Kentucky Equality Federation, Kidnapping and sexual assault, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

This Holy Season . . .

The Unfinished Lives Project Team wishes you and all your Beloved a safe, joyous, fulfilling Passover and Eastertide!  With prayers for a better, more just world, we remain your Friends.

“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of  hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”    ~  Robert Francis Kennedy

April 7, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Comments Off on This Holy Season . . .

Transgender Woman Savagely Murdered in Detroit

East Detroit kill site where trans woman Coko Williams was brutally murdered (Detroit Free Press photo)

Detroit, Michigan – A 35-year-old trans woman was found murdered outside a Parkhurst neighborhood home on Tuesday morning. Because of the reputation of the area, and the stigma associating transgender women with sex workers, the killing of Coko Williams is being lost in the struggle of a neighborhood to survive.  Ms. Williams was found with her throat slashed and shot to death around 6:25 a.m. Tuesday in an area of East Detroit habituated by male and female prostitutes–one that could be justifiably described as “gritty.”  WWJ, the local CBS affiliate, reports that details are still emerging at this hour, but witnesses told police that the killers sped from the crime scene in a gold-colored vehicle.  No suspects have been identified at this time.

News coverage, like that done by Fox News 2, has been slanted toward the determination of Parkhurst residents to eliminate prostitution, drug sales, and violence from their area. Ms. Williams’ murder simply serves Fox as an example of the problems residents face. The Examiner presents Ms. Williams as a “man dressed as a woman,” showing the victim’s self-identification as inconsequential in an otherwise sensational story.  Both news sources illustrate the massive difficulty transgender people face overcoming the biased stereotypes that demean trans people everywhere, and denigrate the characters of trans victims of violence, such as Ms. Williams.

Coko Williams was well-known and well-liked, according to the Trans Women’s Anti-Violence Program. A friend of Ms. Williams who identified herself as Dada told TWAVP that she had known Ms. Williams for fifteen years. Though she was “a loner,” Ms. Dada said, “She was really a sweet, quiet girl. She was never shady or nasty. She wasn’t that type of girl at all. She was always respectful of herself and to other people. It’s sad for her to go out the way she did.”  Her friends told authorities that supported herself as a hair stylist.

Equality Michigan’s Director of Victim Services, Nursrat Ventimiglia, issued an extensive statement to the press, combatting the disinformation surrounding Ms. Williams’ hate crime murder, and calling upon the Detroit Police to apprehend her killers with all possible speed. “It has been widely reported,” Ventimiglia said, “that the area in which this crime occurred is known for sex work. To be clear, it is unknown at this time whether Ms. Williams was engaged in sex work at the time of her killing, however, it is clear that sex workers are often targets of severe violence. Further, transgender women are far too often victims of the most severe violence.”

Ventimiglia then detailed the crisis of transgender violence rocking Detroit and the nation: “Our most recent report through the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2010, documented 27 anti gay, transgender and HIV positive murders, the second highest yearly total ever recorded by the coalition, and transgender women made up 44% of the 27 reported murders in 2010 while representing only 11% of total survivors and victims. Among transgender murder victims, 42% of transgender women killed last year were engaged in sex work at the time of their murder. Equality Michigan and the NCAVP denounce violence against sex workers and seek to raise awareness of the violence faced by gay and transgender sex workers as well as transgender women.”

The investigation is ongoing.

April 5, 2012 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Michigan, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Media Issues, Michigan, Slashing attacks, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Bashing Targets Two North Carolina Women

Sarabeth Nordstrom and Erin Johnston, brutally attacked by homophobes in Boone, North Carolina (Q Notes image)

Boone, North Carolina – Two women perceived to be lesbians were targeted by anti-gay violence at a fast food restaurant in Boone, North Carolina.  Sarabeth Nordstrom and Erin Johnston, a junior exercise science major at Appalachian State University, were verbally harassed with anti-lesbian slurs at the restaurant on February 11 by two females and a male, according to Q Notes.  When Nordstrom and Johnston left for home, the lone male and one of the female harassers followed them.  According to Equality North Carolina, the male initiated the attack upon the women at approximately 2:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the apartment complex where the victims lived.  Nordstrom was struck in the face repeatedly, sustaining a broken nose, eye socket, and cheekbone.  Johnston was knocked to the ground when she tried to call 911 for help, and stomped again and again. Her ribs were broken, her meniscus was torn, and she suffered wounds to her mouth and her nasal cartilage.  They were treated at Watauga Medical Center and released.

The victims said they had never met their assailants prior to the incident.  The alleged main attacker, Ketoine Jamahl  Mitchell, 19, turned himself into Boone Police, and was charged with two counts of assault on a woman, one count of assault inflicting serious injury, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon.  Brooklyn Lacrossa Canter, 18, was arrested in early March, and charged with aiding and abetting the assault.  Mitchell, who has a larceny record in Caldwell County, is being held in the Watauga Detention Center on a $6,000 secure bond, according to The Appalachian Online. Authorities have set April 17 for the first court appearance of Mitchell and Canter.

As Equality North Carolina points out, there is no hate crimes protection for lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people in the state law codes.  Since this savage attack, ENC has agitated for the passage of the Safer Communities Act by the NC State Legislature, which specifies LGBT people as a protected class from physical harm.  Since anti-gay slurs were shouted by the assailants at the victims during the harassment and attack, by definition this was a hate crime–one law enforcement authorities in North Carolina are not yet equipped to acknowledge or combat.

The Appalachian State community has rallied to the support of the victims.  On March 2, a University Forum addressed the question of violence against gay people and women, and on March 5 a benefit was held to give the women a hand with their expenses since the attack.  A petition to Governor Bev Perdue and the state legislature to amend the NC hate crimes statutes is collecting signatures on Change.org, and can be accessed here.  A Facebook page has been created in support of the petition.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Appalachian State University, Beatings and battery, Equality North Carolina, gay bashing, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, North Carolina, Slurs and epithets, Stomping and Kicking Violence | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

%d bloggers like this: