WEST PALM BEACH, FL, May 25, 2013 — Kaitlyn Hunt, the 18-year-old Florida high school student charged with two felony counts of “lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12-16 years of age” yesterday rejected a plea deal that would have labeled her a sex offender and placed her under house arrest for two years.
Hunt, a former cheerleader and basketball player at Sebastian High School was arrested in February for a consensual same-sex relationship with a 14-year-old basketball teammate. The arrest came after the parents of Hunt’s girlfriend called police to report the crime.
Julia Graves, Hunt’s attorney, had petitioned the court to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor, but the state denied that request. Graves then rejected the deal, saying Hunt should not bear the stigma of a sex offender for a consensual relationship. In a statement on Friday, Graves said, “If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be no media attention to this case … If this incident occurred 108 days earlier when she was 17, we wouldn’t even be here.”
The case has garnered large-spread media attention thanks to allegations that the state, and the parents of Hunt’s girlfriend, are doggedly pursuing the case because it involves a homosexual relationship.
Hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’ added its voice to the commentary yesterday, saying they are focusing part of their energy on Hunt’s case.
The Anonymous letter says:
“Greetings, Bigots. We are Operation Justice. The last operation our team conducted led to the case of Rehtaeh Parson’s being re-opened and to an independent investigation into the actions of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. You may have read about us. Now we are in Florida and you should have expected us.
You are currently pursuing 2 felony charges against an 18 year old girl by the name of Kaitlyn Hunt. Kaitlyn was arrested on 2/16/2013 at 20:15, her case number 2013-00022169. She was a student at Sebastian River High School before they expelled her (you don’t have to be a child to be a bully, you just have to have the emotional maturity of one—don’t worry, we will get to them later)
While in the course of performing your duties we feel that you’ve lost perspective. Tsk, tsk. The truth is, Kaitlyn Hunt is a bright young girl who was involved in a consensual, same-sex relationship while both she and her partner were minors. She has a big future ahead of her and there are people, thousands of people in fact, that have no intention of allowing you to ruin it with your rotten selective enforcement.
Now, either we are to interpret your charges to mean that:
1) Indian River County is publicly taking a stance against all relationships that form between two consenting adolescents — or
2) We’re left to wonder if the intolerance of Kaitlyn’s partner’s parents (or maybe it was yours) is really what started this case against her.
The real question is, who in your office didn’t have the balls or the intelligence to put an end to this ridiculousness?
Intolerance has been the curse of this country since it’s inception. Frankly, we’re sick of it. Specifically, we’re sick of paying the salaries of people like you. Now most of you probably interviewed for your jobs and were appointed there, but one or two ranks above you is some asshole that every few years has to go door to door and beg people to remember his or her name on election day. There are quite a few organizations in this country that would prefer that our elected officials not hire bigots that hunt down and file erroneous charges against young women because of their sexual orientation. The fact is, the puritanism you practice doesn’t have a place in this world any longer.
We hope you’ll keep all of this in mind because the next petition we put 200,000 signatures on will have your name on it (maybe you Brian Workman), or your bosses name on it, and we will be calling for a resignation. That petition will be delivered by hundreds of men and women, holding signs and wearing masks, yelling into megaphones and getting all up in your business, right on your doorstep. We can afford to stand there for some time, because, LOL, there are a million more of us than there are of you.
We’ll give you a few days to bask in your new found media attention and the public’s disapproval of your performance. Don’t worry, they’ll call you.”
As a result of the unexpected attention to the case, the parents of Hunt’s former girlfriend appeared on CBS television last week, saying they are neither “homophobic” nor “bigoted” and that they went to authorities “as a last resort.” They said they had told Hunt repeatedly that the relationship was “wrong.” They said when their daughter ran away from home after they forbade her from seeing Hunt, they assumed Hunt had kidnapped her.
Other advocates say the law is simply wrong. The statute, known colloquially as Romeo vs. Juliet, says no one under 16 can legally consent to have sex. Theoretically, two individuals who are 15 years and 11 months old who are sexually active could both be charged with felonies because neither can legally consent.
The more prevalent problem, however, is when an 18-year-old suddenly faces prosecution for having sex with a 14 or 15-year-old he has had relations with for months. Under the law, he could face 15 years in jail. If he is more than four years older than his partner, he will also be labeled a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Even teenagers who have had no physical contact but who engage in “online sex” are subject to prosecution. The point is to protect teenagers from pedophiles, but the law also extends to online relationships between teens when one is older than the other.
The law is also sometimes used by parents to break up relationships. West Palm Beach attorney Val Rodriguez told The Palm Beach Post, “It’s a good tool for a mother or father who has a problem with their own parenting skills and want the criminal justice system to take care of it for them.” Parents complain to authorities that they do not think it is appropriate for their 14-year-old to be dating an 18-year-old, and ask authorities to intervene without understanding the implications of bringing charges.
Kelly Hunt Smith, Hunt’s mother, believes the parents of Hunt’s former girlfriend acted to stop a homosexual relationship and questions why they brought charges, especially considering the extreme consequences if Hunt is convicted. “We would not be here if the parents were not bigoted. To take it criminally I feel like they’re using the age law to pursue their agenda,” she said.
Indian River Sheriff Deryl Loar denies authorities are prosecuting Hunt because the relationship is homosexual. He noted that they have previously prosecuted 18-year-old males for relationships with 14-year-old females.
Smith says the family rejected the deal because of the sexual offender stigma. She said, “It’s a death sentence for her, her life would be over at 18.”
Smith also denies Hunt’s actions were criminal. “Kaitlyn would not hurt a fly. She didn’t know what she was doing was quote, unquote ‘wrong’ or illegal. There was no intent to hurt anybody or commit a crime. I know that’s not an excuse for the letter of the law, but it’s reality.”
If convicted, Hunt faces a maximum 15-year sentence.
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