Florida state attorney Bruce Colton says the charges against Kaitlyn Hunt, the Sebastian River High School student who was arrested on charges of "lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years old" because of her same-sex relationship with a fellow student, will not be dropped.
Kaitlyn's family had started a petition,written to Colton, and Assistant State Attorney, Brian Workman, explaining Kaitlyn's story, and pleading for understanding and for them to have the charges dismissed. The petition explains that the two girls began dating when Kaitlyn was 17, and that the other girl's parents are blaming their daughter's homosexuality on Kaitlyn. The petition received 56,500 signatures.
Colton explained that the public petition will not sway prosecutors from dismissing the charges.
"The idea is to protect people in that vulnerable group from people who are older, 18 and above," he said. "The statute specifically says that consent is not a defense."
"There's a big maturity difference between them," Colton added. "You're talking the difference between a senior in high school and a freshman in high school. That's what the law is designed to protect."
"If this was an 18-year-old male and that was a 14-year-old girl," Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said, "it would have been prosecuted the same way."
If convicted, Kaitlyn's second-degree felony charges are punishable by up to 15 years, and she might need to register as a sex offender.
While the state is not dropping the charges, Colton says they've offered a plea agreement of two years house arrest and one year probation. Kaitlyn's family's lawyers have until Friday to decide to take the deal.
Kaitlyn has received an overwhelming amount of support online, particularly from those who believe this is a gay rights issue. There are those who oppose her, and use the staunch Florida law as a reasoning to push their bigotry.
The family says Kaitlyn's girlfriend's parents are pressing charges because they simply can't handle their daughter being in a same-sex relationship.
"They are out to destroy my daughter, because they feel like she 'made' their daughter gay," Hunt explains in a Facebook letter. "They see being gay as wrong and they blame my daughter. Of course, I see it 100% differently. I don't see or label these girls as gay. They are teenagers in high school experimenting with their sexuality - with mutual consent. And even if their daughter is gay, who cares? She is still their daughter."
Indian River county detectives reportedly conducted a recorded phone call between the two high school students to develop grounds for an arrest. In the call, Kaitlyn told the girl she loved her.