Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, started dating her 15-year-old girlfriend last year. The older of the two teens, Kaitlyn, was arrested and subsequently charged with “sexual battery on a person 12-16 years old.” If found guilty of this crime, Kaitlyn could serve up to 15 years in prison and be required to register as a sex offender. But the assistant state attorney offered a deal: if she agrees to 2 years of house arrest and one year of probation, she can forgo trial.
The case has stirred up controversy about the application of this law: is the crime Hunt is being charged with an abuse Florida's sexual battery law or is the Florida law itself being applied abusively?
It's impossible to estimate how many Florida teens have violated the sexual battery statute: 809,984 teens attend the state's high schools and it's certain that thousands of them are sexually active. Kaitlyn's family believes the law was misapplied to their daughter for discriminatory reasons. Her mother created a Facebook page where she cites homophobia as a motivating factor behind her daughter's legal troubles:
"The law needs to change, not only to protect Kate, but to protect the millions of teenagers, boys and girls, straight and gay, whose lives are regularly ruined because parents disapprove of their children's sexual choices. We want justice for all 18-year-old high school seniors who have undergone criminal prosecution for exercising poor judgement in their dating life. Such students are not predators. They're just kids. Likewise, we believe the law should not be arbitrarily enforced based on a parent's anger. Parents should be empowered to protect their children, but not at the price of destroying another young person's life forever."
Kaitlyn's mother is not alone; 151,656 supporters signed a petition on the activist site Change.org.
Watch Chris Hayes' interview with Kaitlyn's mother, Kelly Hunt-Smith, and her attorney Julia Graves.