Accusations that Florida sex offender Kaitlyn Hunt was prosecuted because of anti-gay bias by the parents of her underage partner were denied by officials at the school that both girls attended, according to documents obtained from the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. In fact, Hunt’s mother — who made the accusations of homophobia — herself expressed disapproval of her daughter’s lesbian affair.
Hunt, now 19, pleaded no contest Oct. 3 to multiple felony charges for her sex crimes against a girl who was 14 at the time. The legal age of consent in Florida is 16. Hunt was first arrested in February, when she was an 18-year-old senior at Sebastian River High School, where the younger girl was then a freshman.
Documents from the Sheriff’s Office investigation of the case contradict claims by Hunt’s supporters that the former cheerleader was a victim of homophobia. In a May 17 post on Facebook that launched the “Free Kate” movement, Hunt’s mother, Kelly Hunt Smith, accused Jim and Laurie Smith, parents of the younger girl, of “hate and bigotry,” saying that the Smiths “feel like my daughter ‘made’ their daughter gay.” Hunt’s mother said the younger girl’s parents “see being gay as a sin and wrong, and they blame my daughter.”
Those claims were investigated in May by Detective Jeremy Shephard of the IRC Sheriff’s Department, who asked officials at the high school if they had ever heard any anti-gay remarks by the younger girl’s parents, or if the parents had ever said Kaitlyn Hunt “turned their daughter gay.” All the officials — principal Todd Racine, assistant principal Dariyall Brown, track coach Christopher Jefferson and basketball coach Teri Amy — denied that the parents had ever said such things to them.
Documents from the investigation were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Sheriff’s Department by Jeanette Runyon and first published by Matt Ross at his Conservative Hideout blog. The documents show that Hunt’s illegal affair with the younger girl — referred to as “C.S.” — was exposed after the 14-year-old girl’s cousin reported it to school officials.
Brown, the assistant principal, said “he was first approaced by C.S.’s cousin about the relationship between C.S. and Kaitlyn.” The cousin told Brown “about a conversation she had with Kaitlyn telling Kaitlyn to leave C.S. alone. However, Kaitlyn would not stop texting C.S.” and the assistant principal told the cousin “to tell C.S.’s parents about this, which she did.” Brown told the detective that the younger girl’s parents “went to the school and spoke to him” about their daughter’s involvement with Hunt, after which “they reported this to law enforcement.”
In an online conversation with the younger girl’s cousin a month before her arrest, Kaitlyn Hunt acknowledged that the affair was illegal. “Yes, I know I’m 18 and can get in trouble, but I understand the consequences,” Hunt said in the messages, after the 14-year-old’s cousin warned her to leave the minor alone. Hunt had claimed in an interview last month with ABC’s 20/20 program that she didn’t realize her actions were against the law.
Documents from the Sheriff’s Office investigation also contradicted a claim often made by Hunt’s supporters, that she and the younger girl were basketball teammates. The assistant principal told the detective “Kaitlyn was never on the basketball team. She tried out, but did not make the team.” That account was confirmed by the basketball coach, who said Hunt “asked if she could work out with the team,” which the coach allowed, before asking Hunt “to not come back due to Kaitlyn causing drama with some of the girls on the team.” The coach said this “had nothing to do with” the affair between Hunt and the younger girl,” of which the coach was unaware at the time.
Hunt’s case first attracted national attention in May, and she was supported by both The American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Florida, the state’s largest gay rights organization. Claims that Hunt was targeted because of homophobic bias garnered coverage in national media, including an appearance on NBC’s Today show.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of the documents from the Sheriff’s Office investigation was a text message that Kaitlyn Hunt’s mother sent to the underage girl. Kelley Hunt Smith publicly said in May she accepted her daughter’s lesbian activity as “healthy and normal,” and accused the younger girl’s parents of “delusional … hate and bigotry,” saying they were trying to “ruin my daughter’s life.” However, in a text message sent to the younger girl in January, Kelley Hunt Smith wrote:
“I don’t want you to think I’m judgement [sic] or anything like that, but I 100% never supported this and I told Kate that. I am a Christian and I have a faith in God, so for me I don’t believe it’s right or what god intended. But, I have a cousin who recently came out being lesbian and I don’t love her any less. I hope that makes sense to u. But I told Kate I didn’t approve. I told her I didn’t feel like she was gay, and I felt like she needed to go talk to a counselor about her issues with her Dad, I told her that you were too young to be having this type of relationship and I didn’t think it was healthy.”
The difference between this January text message and later public statements was emphasized by Matt Ross at Conservative Hideout: “Kelley Hunt Smith contradicts what she said to the victim, and them attacks the Smiths, for having the same beliefs that she stated having in January? Once again, we see some glaring differences between what Kelley Hunt Smith says, and what Kelley Hunt Smith says. The question is, when was she lying, or was she lying at both times?”
Hunt rejected two plea bargain offers that would have kept her out of prison, and was out on bond awaiting trial when investigators learned she had violated a “no-contact” order that was a condition of pre-trial release. Her bond was revoked at an Aug. 20 hearing where prosecutors showed that Hunt had sent thousands of text messages as well as obscene videos and photos to the younger girl, who is still under the legal age of consent. Hunt finally accepted a plea bargain last month and is due to be released from jail Dec. 20 on strict terms of community supervision.
- Matt Ross, Conservative Hideout: #FreeKate Update: Hunt Family Claims Anti-gay Bias, Police Investigation Finds None-Kelley Hunt Smith Engages in it?