Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt has refused to take a plea deal after being charged with two felonies for a same-sex relationship that she had with a 15-year-old peer. Hunt has decided to risk her future at trial.
Hunt, 18, was arrested in February when her girlfriend’s parents reported her relationship with their minor daughter to police. Hunt was charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years old. A judge ruled she could still attend her Sebastian, Fla., high school with the other girl as long as she did not have contact with her. The girl’s parents then appealed to the school board and had Hunt expelled from Sebastian River High School just weeks before she would have graduated.
State Attorney Brian Workman offered Hunt a plea deal that included “two years house arrest and one year probation,” Hunt’s mother Kelley Hunt Smith said.
"Our client is a courageous teenager who is choosing not to accept the current plea offer by the state of Florida," said Hunt’s family attorney Julia Graves in a statement Friday.
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"It's a situation of two teenagers who happen to be of the same sex involved in a relationship. If this case involved a boy and a girl, we don't believe there'd be the media attention to this case. Our client's a model citizen. She's been placed in an environment of school with her classmates where they go to school together, they 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 of them as a result of this environment which is created by the state, it leads to criminal prosecution."
A Change.org petition to stop the prosecution of Hunt has more than 284,000 signatures.
The charges are serious enough to haunt Hunt the rest of her life.
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"There are colleges that will not let felons do certain things, or child abuse charges, where you can't supervise field trips or your own children later, you can't participate in things," Graves said Wednesday. "These are things that will certainly affect her future if she takes this current plea offer."
Hunt’s girlfriend, who is still a minor, was 14-years-old when their relationship began last year. The girls met on the basketball team at their high school.
Hunt’s father, Steven R. Hunt, said his daughter was a good student who participated in cheerleading, chorus and basketball at her school. When she started dating the other girl on her team, her coach dropped her from the team over concerns it would cause “drama.”
The ACLU of Florida released a statement Tuesday admonishing the prosecution.
“The facts as we understand them suggest that the state is prosecuting Kaitlyn for engaging in behavior that is both fairly innocuous and extremely common,” said the ACLU statement. “Such behavior occurs every day in tens of thousands of high schools across the country, yet those other students are not facing felony convictions (and, in Florida, the lifetime consequences of a felony conviction) and potential lifelong branding as sex offenders.”
The family believes the minor would not have pressed charges herself and that her parents are to blame over the ordeal.
“They are out to destroy my daughter, because they feel like she ‘made’ their daughter gay,” Hunt Smith said. “They see being gay as wrong and they blame my daughter. Of course, I see it 100 percent differently. I don’t see or label these girls as gay. They are teenagers in high school experimenting with their sexuality – with mutual consent. And even if their daughter is gay, who cares? She is still their daughter.”