Kaitlyn Hunt Takes Plea Deal in Florida Teen Sex Crime Case

The controversy over a Florida lesbian’s illegal underage sex affair reached a courtroom conclusion Thursday morning when 19-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt accepted a plea bargain offered by prosecutors. Hunt made nationwide headlines in May, when her supporters claimed the former cheerleader was the victim of anti-gay prejudice because of the felony charges for her sex crimes against a 14-year-old freshman at Sebastian River High School.

Kaitlyn Hunt's mug shot, after she turned herself in at the Indian River Count Jail.

Kaitlyn Hunt’s mug shot, after she turned herself in at the Indian River Count Jail.

During a brief hearing at the Indian River County courthouse in Vero Beach, Hunt pleaded “no contest” to six charges as part of the agreement that will keep her in jail until Dec. 20, and then release her under strict terms of “community control.” The sentence is part of a total three years of felony supervision. In addition to having no contact with the victim in the case, who is now 15, Hunt will be required to wear a GPS tracking device, will have to undergo “psychological evaluation” and will have to make her phone and Internet communications available to probation officials and law enforcement at their request. “If she successfully completes her supervision, she will avoid becoming a convicted felon,” assistant state attorney Brian Workman said of the deal. “Of course, if she violates the terms of her supervision, the judge may sentence her to any lawful sentence, including prison.”

Hunt’s no-contest plea ends an eight-month drama that began when she was arrested in February on two felony sex charges under Florida law, which establishes 16 as the legal age of consent. In May, prosecutors offered a plea bargain that would have kept Hunt out of prison, but she rejected that offer after her family mounted an Internet “Free Kate” campaign, portraying her as an innocent target of homophobic prosecutors. The American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Florida, the state’s largest gay rights organization, declared their support for Hunt, who was featured in national media, including an appearance on NBC’s Today show.

Florida sex offender Kaitlyn Hunt is comforted by her father at a May press conference.

Florida sex offender Kaitlyn Hunt is comforted by her father at a May press conference.

Prosecutors subsequently offered a second, more lenient plea bargain, an offer that was withdrawn in August after the victim’s parents reported to authorities that Hunt had violated the “no-contact” order requires as a condition of Hunt’s pre-trial release. Hunt’s bond was revoked and she was returned to jail after an Aug. 20 hearing.

The younger girl’s age made her too young legally to have sex, but no one disputed that she was a willing partner for Hunt, who was 18 when their sexual involvement began in late 2012. An arrest affidavit said that in December the freshman sent text messages to Hunt, arranging to meet in a school restroom toilet stall, where the girls “started kissing. Kaitlyn then took [the 14-year-old’s] pants off and put her finger inside of [the 14-year-old’s] vagina.” In January 2013, the younger girl told a detective from the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office, she ran away from home to spend the night in Hunt’s bedroom, where the teenagers “put their fingers inside of each other’s vaginas, put their mouths on each other’s vaginas, and both of them used a vibrator on each other to insert it in each other’s vaginas.”


Hunt’s parents claimed that the illegal sex was reported to police only because the victim’s parents were religious fanatics: “They are trying to send an innocent young girl to prison because they are full of hate and bigotry,” Kaitlyn’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith wrote in a May 17 Facebook post that launched the “Free Kate” movement.

Hunt’s cause was enthusiastically embraced by some gay-rights activists and media personalities, including Chris Hayes of of the liberal MSNBC network. However, others criticized the Hunt family for having misled supporters about key facts of the case. Joan McCarter of the popular progressive blog Daily Kos wrote, “Previously, Hunt’s parents said that the younger girl was 15, and Hunt 17 when the relationship began,” accusing the parents of “dishonesty” that made “this story much more problematic.” A local gay-rights group, Vero Beach PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), refused to support Hunt, issuing a statement saying “the cry of discrimination … does not seem to apply.”

Hunt’s family reportedly raised more than $30,000 in online contributions and, in June, Kaitlyn, her family and other supporters traveled to New York to march in that city’s Gay Pride Parade.

In June, Kaitlyn Hunt and her supporters marched in the New York City Gay Pride parade.

In June, Kaitlyn Hunt and her supporters marched in the New York City Gay Pride parade.

Whatever chance that Hunt might avoid punishment seemed to evaporate in August, when prosecutors filed a petition notifying Judge Robert Pegg that Hunt had violated the court’s order for her not to contact the victim in the case.  Prosecutors said that before Hunt was expelled from high school in March, she gave the younger girl an iPod, which enabled her to receive messages Hunt sent her. Over the course of the next five months, prosecutors said, Hunt sent the girl some 20,000 text messages, about 25 “lewd” photographs, and an “explicit” video in which Hunt recorded herself masturbating and moaning. This led to a new felony charge of “transmitting harmful materials to a minor” against Hunt. The content of several text messages indicated that Hunt and her mother encouraged the younger girl to conceal this illicit breach of the no-contact order, and also tried to convince the girl to lie about the original charges in the case. The prosecutors said Kaitlyn also had arranged to meet the younger girl for sex as recently as July.


After an Aug. 20 hearing where Judge Pegg called the new evidence against Hunt “overwhelming,” she was returned to jail to await trial. It was reported Tuesday evening that prosecutors had offered Hunt a third plea bargain, which she accepted Thursday, despite her mother’s criticism of the deal. “It’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s not just,” Kelly Hunt Smith wrote in a Facebook message to her daughter’s supporters, “but gives her her life back, which is all she wants.”

In a statement issued before Thursday’s hearing, Hunt’s attorney Julia Graves promised a campaign to legalize sex with 14-year-olds, saying that Hunt plans after her release from jail “to work with supporters and lawmakers toward a change in the law for teenagers attending the same school, no matter what their sexual orientation is.”

An attorney for Jim and Laurie Smith, parents of Hunt’s underage victim, issued a statement on their behalf: “It was never the intent of the Smiths to harm the defendant and this case was never about gender or sexual orientation. It was about age appropriate relationships and following the rules and laws of our society. They are relieved that this chapter of their life is behind them and that now they, and their daughter, can focus on the future.”

On Facebook, Kaitlyn Hunt’s father Steven R. Hunt Jr. released a bitter statement blaming the prosecution, which he said “used the law to beat up Kate,” the state of Florida (“because it perpetuates laws that criminalize adolescent behavior”) and the Smith family, saying that the victim’s parents “chose to hide behind moralistic ideas.”

Kaitlyn’s father is a former police officer who was forced to resign from the West Melbourne police department in 2004 after an internal affairs investigation found he “pressured a victim not to file a battery charge.” He was arrested on fraud charges in April 2012. He and Kaitlyn’s mother are divorced, and both have remarried.