A Florida high school senior was expelled from school and is facing felony charges for a sexual relationship she allegedly had with a fellow girls' basketball teammate who is three years younger.
Kaitlyn Hunt, a cheerleader and basketball player at Sebastian River High School, is facing two counts of felony lewd and lascivious conduct on a child ages 12 to 14 for her alleged relationship with a freshman classmate.
She has denied the charges, which were filed earlier this year in Indian River County.
The girls were 18 and 14 when they became sexually involved, according to an arrest affidavit by the county Sheriff's Department. The girls basketball coach at the high school found out about the relationship, told the younger girl's mother, who also works as a coach, and kicked Hunt off the team, according to Hunt's family.
The younger girl's parents then contacted police, according to the Hunt family.
The police set up a phone sting operation in which the 14-year-old called Hunt and asked her details about their relationship, according to the affidavit. Police then arrested Hunt in February, based on the details the girls discussed on the phone, according to the document. She was charged and spent 24 hours in jail before posting bond.
The Sheriff's Department did not return calls for comment. The Florida State Attorney for the 19th Judicial District Office, which oversees Indian River County, has also not responded to a request for comment.
Hunt's family says the 14-year-old student's parents are angry that their daughter was in a same-sex relationship, and decided to go to police, according to Andrew Gay, Hunt's uncle and the family spokesman.
"Our understanding form the other family is the reason they initially pursued this case is because they're unhappy with their daughter being a same sex relationship," he said. "It would appear to be the case if Kate were a male this wouldn't be happening."
The freshman's parents also twice asked a judge to provide a court order banning Hunt from attending Sebastian River, but the petition was denied, Gay said. The school board then expelled Hunt from the school, and she has been attending an alternative high school, he added.
The Indian River School District declined to comment on the case except to say that it followed the district's student code of conduct in dealing with the situation.
The case has sparked outrage in the Indian River community and online, where petitions and a "Free Kate" Facebook page have gained more than 20,000 followers, which has fueled the recent interest.
"Our family's perspective on this is that Kaitlyn made a poor choice, but this is something that could have been dealt with between families," Gay said. "But they refused to talk. They've been very aggressive. I understand feeling like you need to protect your child, but I don't understand ruining another child's life."
He said the 14-year-old has told police she was in the relationship voluntarily, but the girl's parents are pursuing the action. The younger student's identity has not been released by police or the Hunt family.
Gay said the family understands that the significant age difference between the girls led to the legal problems, but said it points to a wider, national problem of seniors in high school facing jail time for becoming involved with freshmen.
"Just because you turn eighteen doesn't mean you're the wisest person on earth," he said. "This happens all the time with males. It's a national tragedy that seniors in high school are going to jail for dating freshmen. If they shouldn't be intermingling with one another, then they shouldn't be in the same school."
Hunt has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but has been offered a plea deal by the prosecutor's office that she must decide whether to accept by Friday, according to Gay.
The prosecutor's office offered Hunt the chance to avoid jail time if she pleads guilty to felony child abuse, he said.
"She's hanging in there, but it's been rough," Gay said. "She's spent three years doing medical training in high school and had plans to start college and a nursing program.
"A felony convict can't become a nurse, so that would ruin her plan for her entire life."