More than 200,000 people have signed a petition supporting accused sex offender Kaitlyn Ashley Hunt, 18, who last week rejected a plea bargain in a Florida case that has attracted nationwide media attention. The arrest affidavit says Hunt admitted to an Indian River County Sheriff’s Office detective in February that she had sex at least twice with a 14-year-old girl — the first time in a toilet stall at Sebastian High School — which is enough to convict her of lewd and lascivious conduct, a felony under Florida law.
Supporters of the “Free Kate” movement say Hunt is a victim of homophobia who “made a mistake.” Her lawyer Julia Graves says Hunt is a “model citizen,” but video surfaced over the weekend that would appear to contradict that claim.
“Beat her f–king ass, Emily! Beat her ass! Get that bitch!” the girl reported to be Kaitlyn Hunt shouts in the video showing two girls fighting on the beach. Watch:
The video, which Viral Read staff were able to convert to YouTube format, was first posted Saturday at a Tumblr site by a teenager who says he is a Sebastian High classmate. The anonymous teen said “that the way the media is portraying [Hunt] is far from reality. … she is not a good person and is not ‘innocent’. She … constantly starts high school drama, gets in school suspensions, and is overall not well liked at all.” As proof that the girl yelling on the video is actually Hunt, the anonymous poster referred to the arrest record which describes her as having three tattoos, including a bird on her right shoulder. The tattoo appears briefly in the video at the 14-second mark:
Hunt was reportedly kicked off the Sebastian High basketball team after the coach learned of her sexual involvement with the 14-year-old freshman teammate. Hunt’s case has sparked fierce controversy in social media where supporters created the #FreeKate Twitter hashtag, only to see it taken over by critics who say the case is being exploited by activists who want to decriminalize pedophilia.
Supporters of Hunt had originally garnered support by misrepresenting the ages of the two girls as well as other key facts of the case. They claimed the younger girl was 15 and that Hunt was 17, that it was merely a “high school romance” and said the younger girl’s parents waited until after Hunt turned 18 to press charges. Then the sheriff’s department arrest affidavit was posted, making clear that Hunt turned 18 before she ever met the 14-year-old, and detailing the nature of the sexual offenses, including the fact that “the first time” occurred in a school toilet stall. Those revelations led at least one lesbian blogger to repudiate her support for Hunt.
“The truth is this is not a case of homophobia; it’s a case of a family trying to protect their daughter by using the gay angle of this case to rally sympathy and support from the gay community,” T.J. Askren wrote May 22 at her Red Treehouse blog. “Kaitlyn Hunt is not a lesbian hero. She is not a gay martyr. … Getting in trouble for finger f*cking your underage girlfriend in the school bathroom is not a noble cause.”
Joan McCarter, a staff writer at the popular progressive site Daily Kos, also retracted her support for the “Free Kate” campaign. At the Media Research Center‘s Newsbusters site, Matthew Philbin accused gay activists of trying to make homosexuality a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for sex offenders.
The 14-year-old’s parents, Jim and Laurie Smith, went public Thursday, giving an interview to a local CBS affiliate station. They said they only reported Hunt to police after twice asking her to leave their daughter alone, and after a Jan. 14 incident that was described by Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar:
The victim even ran away from home at one point, and Kate admits she picked up the victim and kept her at her Sebastian home, while her parents searched for their daughter.
“Miss Hunt actually picked the victim up and took her back to her house, I think that may influence or aggravate the case.” Loar said. …
[Prosecutor Bruce Colton said:] “We still can’t turn our backs on the fact there was a crime committed here and it’s a very serious crime here.”
On Friday, Hunt rejected the offer of a plea deal that would have kept her out of prison. A trial is scheduled June 20, although local sources say that a crowded docket means that the case will likely be pushed back at least until July.