(CNN) -- Two Kentucky men pleaded not guilty Thursday to kidnapping and assaulting a gay man because of his sexual orientation, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
The case marks the first use of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009 to bring a case alleging a violation of the sexual orientation provision of the statute.
David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, were indicted late Wednesday for allegedly kidnapping and beating Kevin Pennington. The defendants, who are cousins, also are charged with conspiracy.
On April 4, 2011, the defendants enlisted the help of two women to lure Pennington into a pickup truck with the Jenkins cousins, according to the indictment. The two men allegedly drove Pennington to Kingdom Come State Park and assaulted him.
"David Jason Jenkins and Anthony Ray Jenkins made a plan to assault Pennington because of his sexual orientation," the indictment said. It also said the men wore clothing to try to hide their identities and disabled a light inside the truck to affect Pennington's ability to see who they were.
The women allegedly encouraged the defendants as they beat Pennington, but are not charged in the indictment.
Andrew Stevens, David Jenkins' lawyer, said he has not seen the government's evidence in the case, but he told CNN he finds the use of the hate crime statute troubling.
"It's hard to say how you get in someone's head and say this has to do with homosexuality," Stevens said. "It's quite a burden for the government to prove, and I have a suspicion we're in for a fist fight."
Stevens said his view of the case is that there was "an altercation" about a "drug deal gone bad."
A lawyer for the other defendant did not immediately return a message seeking a comment.
The trial for David Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins is scheduled for June 18. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of life in prison.
Shepherd was a gay teenager who died after being tied to a fence in Wyoming and beaten in 1998. Byrd was an African-American man killed in Texas the same year when he was dragged to death.