Over the past few days, news surrounding the charges that have been brought against Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, has spread quickly, with emotional responses ringing out from all sides. As TheBlaze previously reported, the high school senior was arrested in February after a relationship she had with a younger, female student at her school came to light. Her girlfriend, now 15, was not of legal age to be engaged in sexual behaviors with Hunt; now, she could face prison time.
Despite the family's plea with the public -- and officials -- to throw out the charges, the government has no plans to comply with the parents' request. On Monday, the Indian River County Sheriff's Office officially responded to the public uproar during a press conference. Authorities doubled-down on the charges against Hunt, CBS reports.
Despite furor from some who are focusing upon the fact that the case involves a same-sex relationship, police say that the facts would be the same regardless of the genders of those involved.
"If this was an 18-year-old male and that was a 14-year-old girl, it would have been prosecuted the same way," Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said, according to WPBF-TV.
In this photo made available by the Hunt family, Kaitlyn Hunt and her father Steve in Vero Beach, Fla., Monday May 20, 2013. Kaitlyn, 18, was expelled from school for dating and having sex with her 14-year-old girlfriend, who was a fellow player on her basketball team. Hunt was arrested and charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16 years. Credit: AP
And Bruce Colton, state attorney for Florida's 19th circuit, mirrored these sentiments, WUSA-TV reports. According to Florida law, anyone who engages in sexual activity with an individual between the ages of 12 and 16 is involved in the crime of "lewd and lascivious battery." Authorities have no plans to drop charges based on public outcry.
"The idea is to protect people in that vulnerable group from people who are older, 18 and above," Colton said. "The statute specifically says that consent is not a defense."
The state attorney went on note that maturity differences are important. In this case, it was the difference between a high school senior and a freshman, a distinction and age difference that is, in his view, important to legislate and protect. As it stands, Hunt is charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years of age.
The CBS News report has additional details about the case:
The second-degree felony charges are reportedly punishable by up to 15 years in prison and could require the individual to register as a sex offender. Colton told WTSP Hunt has until Friday to accept a plea agreement that would subject her to two years of house arrest followed by a year of probation.
According to an arrest affidavit obtained by WTSP, Kaitlyn and her girlfriend began dating in November 2012. The victim reportedly told police they began a sexual relationship and according to the report, the victim was 14 and Kaitlyn was 18.
As part of the investigation, Indian River county detectives reportedly a recorded phone call between the two high school students to develop grounds for an arrest. In the call, Kaitlyn told the girl she loved her, the station reports.
This description seems to call into question the notion that the two were only three years apart in age, although it has been difficult to determine the exact age difference between the two. According to WUSA-TV, an arrest affidavit claims that the relationship started in Nov. 2012 when Kaitlyn was 18 and the unnamed minor was 14.
Photo Credit: Facebook/Free Kate page
Previously, Hunt's mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, wrote the following in a Facebook post: "The two girls began dating while Kaitlyn was 17 but her girlfriend’s parents blamed Kailtyn for their daughter’s homosexuality. They waited until after Kaitlyn turned 18 and went to the police to have charges brought against her."
In interviews with detectives, the younger girl said that the two performed sexual acts on one another both at the school and at Kaitlyn's home in Sebastian, Florida, up until January. Authorities apparently recorded a phone call between the two during which Kaitlyn said she loved the girl.
The affidavit provided additional context surrounding how the high school senior justified the relationship with a girl who was noticeably younger.
"Your affiant asked Kaitlyn if she knew it was wrong to have sex with [name redacted] due to [redacted] being 14 years old," a detective wrote in the document, according to WUSA-TV. "Kaitlyn stated that she did not think about it because [redacted] acted older."
The New York Times account adds additional information, including locations where sexual encounters purportedly took place and more about how the younger party's parents came to learn of the relationship:
The police arrested Ms. Hunt on Feb. 16 at her mother’s home in Sebastian, near Vero Beach, charging her with two counts of lewd or lascivious battery, a second-degree felony. According to the arrest affidavit, the two girls, who knew each other from the basketball team, began a relationship in November. Just before Christmas, they had a sexual encounter in a bathroom at Sebastian River High School. They had at least one more encounter there, according to the affidavit, and one in Ms. Hunt’s bedroom in January after the 14-year-old, a freshman, ran away from home.
The younger girl’s parents went to the police after learning from a coach, school employees and students that their daughter was having a relationship, according to a report from the Indian River County Sheriff’s office. The parents’ information led to the investigation.
As previously reported, TheBlaze spoke with Indian River County Superintendent Dr. Fran Adams on Monday morning. While she was unable to speak explicitly about Hunt’s case, as she said that the law prohibits her from giving information without parental consent, she did make mention of a student code of conduct that all pupils must follow.
“I can tell you that if any incident happens on a campus or at a school-related event and there’s a violation of our student code of conduct — we have a board adopted policy that is our student code of conduct,” she said, claiming that there is a set of standards for all students regardless of race, religion, sex, nationality or sexual preference.
Adams gave few details and did not explicitly accuse Hunt of violating the student code, however its mention creates new questions about what might have led to the district’s decision to expel the student. If the allegation about sexual activity at the school is substantiated, it is possible that these actions violated the school's code, thus leading to expulsion.
These details add new perspective to the initial story over the weekend, which focused mainly upon Hunt's parents and their contention that punishment over the situation is rooted in their daughter's sexuality and not the differences in age that were observed between the two girls.
Smith Facebook post spoke extensively about the challenges her daughter is facing. Smith described Hunt as a wonderful young woman with “an exemplary record at school and home.” A model student and daughter, she claims her daughter has never been in trouble prior to her recent run-in with the law.
Smith described the younger girl’s family as “bigoted, religious [zealots]” who believe that being gay is a sin. They seemingly blame Hunt for their daughter’s sexuality and are taking legal action to punish her as a result, she charges. Smith also characterized the family as being out to destroy her daughter’s life.
While the school was initially supportive of Hunt and a judge ruled on two separate occasions that she could remain in the school, the school board, according to Smith, expelled the senior and Hunt was then forced to go to an alternative school. Again, it is possible that the other allegations in the affidavit explain this expulsion, however that has not been confirmed.
Now, Hunt's family claims that she faces depression and emotional distress as a result of the charges against her and the plight she has faced at school; however, those in agreement with the law claim that she is facing ramifications for violating important provisions that are on the books. The law, as stated, does not protect Hunt, as the individual was under the age of content -- which is 16 in Florida.
Critics are still supporting the Hunt family and speaking out against the law. Hacker group Anonymous is among the chorus of those hoping charges will be dropped. Here's how they responded, according to the Huffington Post:
Hacktivists from Anonymous have launched Operation Justice4Kaitlyn, announcing their intention to target the school and the Indian River County State Attorney's Office.
"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.
"Intolerance has been the curse of this country since its inception. Frankly, we're sick of it. Specifically, we're sick of paying the salaries of people like you.
As stated, Hunt could face up to 15 years in prison if she is convicted, but she has been offered a plea agreement, which must be decided upon by Friday. It would give the 18-year-old two years of house arrest and one additional year of probation. While a plea deal would spare her prison time and could potentially lead to a reprieve from having to register as a sex offender later on, the family is opposed.