Case will go to trial in July
By Jessica Tuggle
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- A Sebastian woman chose not to accept a plea offer from the state in a case regarding sexual activity between a minor female and an adult female, and the story of her case has made national news.
Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, of Sebastian, was arrested on Feb. 16 on two felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 16. She posted $5,000 bail later that day and was released from jail.
During the past two weeks however, her family went public with her case, using social media tools to spread the word about Ms. Hunt's charges and options, and the response from the online community was tremendous, but not enough to cause the state to drop the charges.
Ms. Hunt's family's "Stop the Hate, Free Kate," campaign page states the reason the family of the minor, whose name was redacted in the law enforcement paperwork, is continuing to press charges is because they are against their daughter being in same-sex relationship.
The state attorney's office offered Ms. Hunt a plea deal that would have avoided incarceration and the necessity to register as a sex offender, and could have avoided being a convicted felon, but Ms. Hunt refused and the case will go to trial by jury in July, according to a statement from the office of Bruce Colton, state attorney.
The charges against Ms. Hunt are statutory rape charges, even though the participants said their sexual activity was consensual, and could result in 15 years in prison and sexual offender status.
"Consent does not matter when it comes to a 14-year-old victim," said Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar.
Another state law, dubbed "Romeo and Juliet," could help Ms. Hunt avoid the sex offender label because of the closeness in age between Ms. Hunt and the minor female.
Ms. Hunt's attorneys, Julia and Joseph H. Graves, described their client as "courageous," and said their focus will be to fight for Ms. Hunt's life.
Sheriff Loar said the female minor and her parents came to the sheriff's office to file a complaint and the subsequent investigation led to Ms. Hunt's arrest.
According to police reports, Ms. Hunt began dating an unnamed girl in November 2012 and began a sexual relationship shortly thereafter. At the time, Ms. Hunt was 18 and the other girl was 14.
Sheriff Loar said it was a sign of the times when the social media firestorm put Indian River County in the limelight for this case.
The allegations that this case is being prosecuted because it was because it was a same-sex couple are not true, he said.
"If it was an 18-year-old male and a 14-year-old girl, it would have been prosecuted the same way," he said.