Kevin Pennington was beaten by two cousins and left in the woods of southeastern Kentucky.

The Matthew Shepard Act, which was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama in October, 2009 will be getting its first trial run shortly when Federal prosecutors pursue charges against the two men who beat Kevin Pennington of Kentucky on April 11, 2011.  Two cousins, David Jason Jenkins, 37, of Cumberland, Ky., and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, of Partridge, Ky drove Pennington into a remote mountainous area outside Harlan, KY where they beat and kicked him with their iron-toe boots and a tire iron.

Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20 and his cousin David Jason Jenkins, 37.

Throughout the attack, the cousins verbally abused Pennington who is gay with shouts of:  “How do you like this, faggot?” and “Kill that faggot.”  At one point in the beating, Pennington was able to get away from his assailants who didn’t pursue him through the brush.  The two Jenkins drove.  With bruises all over his face and body,  Pennington crawled through the woods until he came upon a ranger station.  He smashed a window to the remote cabin, pulled himself inside and called 911.

While the two Jenkins are not denying that they beat Pennington, they claim that the assault was the result of a drug deal gone bad and not because Pennington  gay man.

Many people who oppose hate crime legislation like the Matthew Shepard Act claim that such laws penalize someone for their thoughts.  Many libertarians and political conservatives believe that like freedom of speech,  no one should be punished for their thoughts.

But the fact Ray and David Jenkins would prefer to be prosecuted for a standard assault and not a hate crime speaks to the fear perpetrators have of being prosecuted for expressing hate through violence.  Regardless of whether or not the kidnapping and assault were initiated by a drug deal gone bad or homophobia, Pennington’s sexual orientation was clearly on the minds of his assailants.  They weren’t just expressing anger at someone who hadn’t given them the right amount of money or drugs in transaction, they made their intent known, “kill a faggot.”