An 18-year-old honor student was charged with statutory rape, specifically two counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child after it was found she had sex with a 14-year old classmate. What puts this case a bit more in the spotlight than the standard case of its type is that the classmate was the same gender as the accused student.
Kaitlyn Hunt, 18 of Sebastian, Fla., now faces these concerns after the parents of her “then” 14-year old girlfriend chose to pursue the case by asking prosecutors to move forward with the charges.
It was the girls’ basketball coach that first found out about the relationship between the two girls and alerted the younger girl’s parents. Both students were teammates and Hunt was also a cheerleader.
Hunt was kicked off the basketball team and subsequently expelled from Sebastian River High School where both of the girls attended class.
Kaitlyn’s family asserts that the now 15-year-old’s parents brought forward the charges against their daughter because they were livid about their daughter being involved in a same-sex liaison.
Her father, Steve Hunt said that the day before his daughter was arrested; the younger girl’s parents, with police present, covertly recorded a telephone conversation between the two girls in which they talked about kissing in the school bathroom.
“It’s horrible. For my daughter’s sexual preferences, she’s getting two felony charges. It could possibly ruin her future,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Hunt’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith said that her daughter played on the same basketball team with her younger girlfriend and was a part of the same group of friends. Their relationship was consenting and it had started shortly after Kaitlyn’s eighteenth birthday. She also said that she imagined that the younger girl’s parents were aware of their relationship.
The younger girl’s mother reportedly said that “she’s just a mom protecting her daughter” and it has nothing to do with any gay rights issues.
Gay rights activists have said that the older student is unfairly under attack for what would be a common high school romance if the circumstances were of a heterosexual nature.
But Florida State Attorney Bruce Colton said that a relationship such as this one is still a crime and once the charges have been filed they won’t be dropped due to the belief that they were only brought forward because it involved a gay romance. He told a local newspaper that the equivalent charges would relate to a heterosexual case and that they generally do. His office, which is responsible in four Florida counties for the oversight of approximately three quarters of a million individuals, normally prosecutes up to 30 comparable cases on a yearly basis. When asked if this situation was unique he replied that he could only recollect two other instances that involved a same-sex pair.
He was also quoted as remarking that “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. Whatever the combination, it doesn’t matter.”
His office charged Hunt in February and at that time Colton said that he would recommend a lenient sentence of house arrest for two years in a plea deal. However, if she chose to go to trial, she could face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and find herself in the situation of having to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.
But even if convicted she could further fight that outcome in appeal, because she and her alleged victim were less than four years apart in age. This provision falls under Florida’s “Romeo & Juliet law that was passed in 2007; the purpose of which was to allow a percentage of young individuals convicted of statutory sex offenses to avoid the harsh consequences of lifetime inclusion into the sex-offender registry due to the fact that the original crime was of a consensual nature. The defendant’s birthday must literally be within four years to the day of the minor’s birthday. Based on the difference in their ages, in this case, the law would apply.
On May 24 Hunt decided not to take the plea arrangement.
Her attorney called her client a courageous teenager who is choosing not to accept the current plea offer by the state of Florida. 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.”
All crimes of a sexual category are serious offenses and convictions can be very harsh. The penalties of a conviction for sexual crimes can be extremely punitive and often include extensive incarceration, a long-lasting criminal record and having to register as a lifetime sexual offender. If you or someone you know or love is being investigated for, or has been charged with any crime of this type, it is critical to contact an experienced criminal attorney who is proficient in this field and can properly handle the case as well as having the best abilities to protect your rights.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
Mr. Cohen’s practice has recently expanded and he is now a partner in the prestigious law firm of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP. Through this partnership, Mr. Cohen can now lead your defense in the New York Metropolitan area in addition to the Broward, Dade, or Palm Beach County areas as well as all other jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida
Mr. Cohen is also listed in the 2013 edition of “Best Lawyers in America“.