Kevin Pennington Hate Crime Trial Official Statement

Kentucky Equality
Federation Vice President
of Legal, Attorney Jillian Hall

As a public advocate service, Kentucky Equality Federation brings hate and related crimes against minority groups, including the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex community, to the attention of the county attorney, commonwealth’s attorney, or U.S. attorney as appropriate. Kentucky Equality Federation serves the victim in all things, including, but not limited to Kentucky Equality Federation controlling media access to the victim, making legal and mental resources available, and preparing the victim for court.

Once a trial begins, it is up to the prosecutors to make their case for justice.

Rose Law Office
Jill Hall Rose, Kentucky
Equality Federation Legal

“The acquittal of these individuals from the hate crime aspect of this case is truly a disappointment,” stated Chairman of the Board Brandon Combs. “This is a failing by prosecutors to make their case beyond a reasonable doubt, but this should serve as a rallying point around which the LGBTI community can gather and we thank the U.S. Department of Justice for responding to our request to prosecute this case. If there is any positive to take away from this ruling, it is that Mr. Pennington did receive some measure of justice, albeit not what he deserved.”

“I think it is important that the U.S. attorney took this case to send a message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated,” stated Attorney Jill Hall Rose, Kentucky Equality Federation’s legal representation. “The enormous burden of proof, especially in such a high profile case is on the government and the jury found some reasonable doubt as to the hate crime statute despite the compelling testimony given. This is not a setback, the fact that Kentucky Equality Federation successfully lobbied the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute this case and that U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey ordered it to be prosecuted says a lot about Kentucky and the United States; hate motivated crimes will not be tolerated. U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey has effectively put Kentucky ‘on notice.’ I admire Jordan Palmer for sticking up for people and the important work everyone that Kentucky Equality Federation does because they are all volunteers, none of them are paid.”

Kentucky Equality Federation’s Vice President of Legal, Attorney Jillian Hall agreed.

“I do continue to believe this was a hate crime,” said Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “Beating someone, or trying to kill them, all the time shouting anti-gay slurs….. if that isn’t a hate crime, I’m not sure the jury completely understood the definition of the law. I agree with our attorneys that this was not a setback, though this is not the verdict we wanted, they still face life in prison. Tomorrow someone may be arrested for a hate crime that results in a conviction, each case is unique. Though the defense was ultimately unsuccessful in getting the law declared unconstitutional, the defense was successful in arguing about low IQ’s, drug addition, sexual attraction, etc. This does not negate the inescapable conclusion however that yelling anti-gay slurs while assaulting someone is by definition a hate crime, just as it would be (by definition) had they yelled defamatory terms about any other protected class while attempting to murder them. The assertion that one of the people who assaulted Kevin Pennington has an IQ of 75 and unable to plan the assault, but can apparently participate in it is repugnant.”

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove ruled that Congress stretched their authority to just being below ‘beyond Congressional authority,’ with the federal hate crime statute.

“We also take offense for the inflammatory comment from the defense that U.S. President Obama and the federal government bow to special interest groups,” stated Southeastern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor. “Kentucky Equality Federation is not a ‘special interest group,’ we seek equality and justice under law, nothing more, nothing less. U.S. President Obama knows this, Kentucky Governor Beshear knows this (with his executive order protecting LGBTI people from discrimination in Kentucky government), and U.S. Attorney Harvey knows this. The defense suggesting that Kevin Pennington was doing all of this for media attention in addition to bringing the U.S. president into the argument whom the defense said ‘is unpopular in Kentucky and lost badly here four years ago,’ is to me us both shocking and revolting, but the jury apparently bought some of the argument.”

Palmer concluded: “We heard about the assault on Kevin Pennington the day after it happened from a member of his family. We do not seek out victims, they must be ready and willing to contact us (and feel safe and comfortable in doing so). Though I find the jury’s reasoning questionable given the anti-gay testimony in regards to the hate crime, this is our judicial system and we must live with the verdict. Any additional questions should be directed to our Legal Team at (859) 263-3560, or (877) KEF-5775 – Ext. 5.”