Jonathan Kenney has been sentenced to 10 years probation for the 2012 murder of his girlfriend, Janette Tovar, a transgender woman.
Kenney slammed Tovar’s head into a concrete wall on Davis Avenue, a few blocks from their home. Tovar died of her injuries later that day. After Kenney assaulted her, they made it home but he refused to seek any medical help for her until she was almost dead.
When he finally called for an ambulance, he denied knowing what was wrong.
Within days, Kenney confessed to police that he had beaten her, including hitting her head on the concrete.
Originally, Kenney was charged with first degree murder. In a deal, he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, also a first degree felony, in exchange for probation. If he violates his probation, he could be sent to prison for life. If he doesn’t happen to kill anyone else or violate his parole, Kenney avoids a conviction on his record.
During the sentencing, Tovar’s mother took the stand. She said through a translator that she didn’t think 10 years probation was justice. Then she began crying and yelled at Kenney in Spanish, but didn’t wait for the translator.
Although the murder involved a trans woman, it wasn’t a hate crime, because the motive wasn’t animosity against trans people. Kenney and Tovar lived together. Instead, the murder was a result of domestic violence.
Before the assault that led to death, the couple was fighting, and the DA’s office implied Tovar might have started or been an aggressor in the fight.
Trans Pride’s Nell Gaither attended the plea bargain and sentencing. On her Facebook page, she described Kenney as sitting emotionless during the testimony. She also described the judge as condescending.
Gaither also wondered how much of the sentence was due to anti-trans bigotry. During the sentencing, she noted, the judge used Tovar’s birth name, rather than calling her Janette, as her family did.