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Federal Hate Crime for Attack on Gays

From the AP news wire, an eastern Kentucky man charged with a federal hate crime in an attack on a gay man is challenging the law that protects people against attacks motivated by sexual orientation.   The attorney for 20-year-old Anthony Ray Jenkins of Partridge says the law "arbitrarily" creates a protected class of people and that's not what Congress intended in passing the legislation in 2009.  Anthony Jenkins and his cousin, 37-year-old David Jason Jenkins of Cumberland, have pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, assault and violating the hate crime law. Prosecutors say the men assaulted Kevin Pennington at Kingdom Come State Park on April 4, 2011. Prosecutors say the men are the first to be charged under the hate crimes statute. If convicted, they face life in prison. Apparently this charge is in Louisville from the federal court in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. One primary question that the Courts will face is whether it is constitutional to protect a certain class of individuals.  At its essence, it is worse to kidnap and assault a gay person than any other person?  Should the punishment for an assailant of a gay person therefore be more severe than if you assail a non-gay? Another issue to be explored is whether the Defendant knew, should have known, or how the prosecutor will prove that it was, indeed, a hate crime.  Can the prosecution simply state it was a "hate crime" because the victim is gay?  Is it required that the victim be gay?  What if the victim is not gay, but the assailant believes him to be? The problems are numerous with this type of legislation. While it is politically correct to protect those that are unable to protect themselves (are gay individuals really unable to protect themselves or less able than anyone else?), the practical application of this type of law is both confusing and difficult.  Of course, this could lead to all types of debates on gay rights, special rights and the like.  The point of this blog is not to advocate for a position on gay rights, but to point out the problems with federal criminal legislation that modifies the punishment for a certain class of individuals. If you have been charged with a crime in federal or state court in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, contact a criminal defense attorney for advice.  For a consultation in Northern Kentucky or Cincinnati, contact Michael W. Bouldin by calling 859-581-6453 or email at [email protected]

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