Statement by A. Julia Graves – Attorney for Kaitlyn Hunt.
Kaitlyn Hunt is an intelligent young woman who until this ordeal began had only a promising future awaiting her. This is supposed to be one of the best times of her life as she graduates high school and moves into adulthood. However, adulthood has come too soon and Kaitlyn now finds herself facing second degree felony charges that put that promising future in jeopardy. While not commenting specifically as to our strategies or specifics, as the case is ongoing, we have a team of lawyers both local colleagues and others from around the nation including Change.Org, Equality Florida and the ACLU now working on Kaitlyn's behalf. This case is complex and sensitive in its nature and the process has deeply affected the lives of two young women. It is my hope that Kaitlyn will be able to move forward with her life and an important dialogue begins in this nation about adolescent relationships and the age of consent regardless of sexual orientation.
The State Attorney’s office, the Sheriff’s Department and the parents of the other girl involved are prosecuting her under a law intended to protect children from being preyed on by adults.
As the attorney for Kaitlyn, although there are different statements out in the media, we have NEVER requested that the charges be completely dropped. We have suggested since the day of her arrest that we are willing to enter a plea to a misdemeanor charge with appropriate punishment that will allow everyone to move on and not dwell on this their entire lives.
Kaitlyn and her parents have been given until Friday to decide whether to go to trial and have the most intimate details of the relationship played out in public or to take a plea agreement that includes forever having a record even if adjudication is withheld. In addition with the sex offender conditions, Kaitlyn would be subjected to sitting in group counseling meetings with legitimate convicted sex offenders that the law was truly meant for.
It is our position that this is a misapplication of the law that will destroy the lives of two high school teenagers, while doing nothing to serve justice. With the deadline coming up, at this time we hold out hope that common sense will prevail and the damage that already has been done will be mitigated by halting any felony prosecution.
We are concerned for the emotional welfare of both of these teenagers under the stress of these avoidable circumstances. Unfortunately the intimate details are a public record and this is a humiliation few of us could have endured in high school. Kaitlyn is being prosecuted for engaging in behavior that is both fairly innocuous and extremely common. 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. This is a life sentence for behavior by teenagers that is all too common, whether they are male or female, gay or straight. High-school relationships may be fleeting, but felony convictions are not.
When we put this behind us we will continue to work and reach out to lawmakers with the assistance of Equality Florida, the ACLU and many others to address the failings of the law that criminalizes high school students and is too often used by parents who object to the race, ethnicity or gender of the schoolmate their teenager is dating.
Other states like Georgia have changed this to either a misdemeanor or no crime at all on a first offense, just counseling and a class in Wisconsin. We need to be more progressive here in the State of Florida.
While effective laws are certainly needed to protect Florida’s children from sexual predators, one cannot seriously maintain that Kaitlyn’s behavior was predatory. Application of this law to Kaitlyn’s conduct is another example of the troubling trend in Florida and across the country of criminalizing teenagers. The school-to-prison pipeline is filled with students whose behavior is better addressed by school officials and parents, not by a criminal justice system that turns ordinary teenagers into convicted felons who are prevented from meaningfully contributing to society because of their unjust convictions. Even if Kaitlyn is able to avoid sex-offender registration, a felony like this or even the offered child abuse will harm her for the rest of her life, damaging her employment prospects and even her right to participate in her community as a citizen and vote.