The 18-year-old Florida high senior who was charged with statutory rape after the parents of her 14-year-old girlfriend went to the police has refused a plea deal from the state attorney that would saddle her with felony charges.
Kaitlyn Hunt began a relationship with a teammate on her school's basketball team when she was 18 and the girl was 14.
The girls' coach found out about the relationship, and kicked Hunt off the team since players are not allowed to date each other. The coach then informed the younger girl's parents who, with the help of police, secretly recorded a conversation between the two young women discussing kissing.
Police arrested Hunt on Feb. 16, and after she confirmed the relationship, charged her with lewd and lascivious battery on a minor age 12 to 16 early this year.
By refusing the deal, which would involve pleading guilty to a charge of child abuse and accepting two years of house arrest and a year of probation, Hunt is taking her chances at trial, local media reported.
A spokesman for the sheriff's department, Sgt. Thom Raulen, confirmed that there was no indication the younger girl had been pressured or forced into the relationship, but Florida considers teens under 16 incapable of given consent.
If convicted, she could face up to 15 years in prison and could have to register as a sex offender, although a "Romeo and Juliet" law exempting offenders where the age gap is less than four years, could help her avoid that status.
An attorney for Hunt say she would be willing to accept a deal if the charges were dropped to a misdemeanor, citing an example when an 18-year-old male in a similar situation took that offer after he had a relationship with a 15-year-old female.
"This is a situation of two teenagers who happen to be of the same sex involved in a relationship," said Julia Graves, attorney for Kaitlyn Hunt. "If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be no media attention to this case."
And the media attention has been growing, especially over insinuations that the younger girl's parents never addressed their concerns with their daughter or Hunt's parents, instead going directly to authorities.
Activists have suggested Hunt is being unfairly targeted because she is gay, where heterosexual relationships between high school students where one was 18 and the other under the age of consent in Florida, were generally given a pass.
The hacker collective Anonymous has gotten involved, releasing a letter to the Florida State attorney accusing him of losing perspective.
And nearly 300,000 people have signed onto an online petition asking the attorney to drop his prosecution.
But state attorney Bruce Colton denies any accusations of bias in the case.
"The law doesn't make any differentiation. It doesn't matter if it's two girls or two boys, or an older boy and a younger girl or an older girl and a younger boy," he said. "Whatever the combination, it doesn't matter."
The parents of the younger girl, identified as Jim and Laurie Smith, say they objected because their daughter was just too young, and they had warned Hunt to stay away from their daughter.
The last straw, they say, is when they went into their daughter's room on a weekend morning and she wasn't there. Hunt picked her up, but she hadn't told her parents.
"We had no other alternative but to turn to the law, use it basically as a last resort," Jim Smith said.
Full statement on behalf of Kaitlyn Hunt by her counsel Julia Graves:
Our client is a courageous teenager who is choosing not to accept the current plea offer by the State of Florida.
This is a situation of two teenagers who happen to be of the same sex involved in a relationship. If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be no media attention to this case.
Our client is a model citizen. She has been placed in an environment of school with her classmates where they go to school together, have lunch together, and play on the same team and are allowed to have communication and contact without barriers. Then when something develops between the two as a result of this environment created by the State, it leads to criminal prosecution.
If this incident occurred 108 days earlier when she was 17, we wouldn’t even be here.
Right now this is the biggest thing in her life. We are going to stand behind her. Her family and friends are going to stand behind her.
This is not logical. The State is willing to take this teenager’s life away over 108 days.
Along with Kaitlyn and her family, we are going to fight to have the law changed so no other teenager finds themselves in this same position created by the State of Florida and prosecuted unfairly.
Now we as counsel need to get down to the serious business of fighting for this teenager’s life.