A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.
On May 17, 2013 a Facebook group was created to garner media attention and build a base of support for Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18 year old woman charged with felony acts involving sexual activity with a 14 year old minor.
The campaign worked, finding an international audience and driving hundreds of thousands of people to sign a petition in support of Kaitlyn within days.
My intent is to present here the facts of the case clearly as a reference, as well as provide some of my own thoughts and concerns on the Free Kate movement.
Update 9/27 including details of the motion for continuance requested by the defense on 9/25, Kelley Hunt Smith's odd explanation for the defense's request, and a completely different explanation provided to us by Kaitlyn Hunt's attorney.
Update 10/3 - a third plea offer was extended by the prosecution to Kaitlyn Hunt, which was formally accepted in court this morning. Kaitlyn Hunt will remain in county jail until December 20.
We have reached out to Kaitlyn Hunt's attorney's office through their website, as well as multiple emails to the Hunt family themselves, as well as several open invitations extended to the Hunt family and their supporters online to give opportunity for anyone to correct the record on anything on this site that factually inaccurate. We welcome anyone interested in fact-checking this site and providing documentation proving where the content here is mistaken.
Despite receiving no response at all from the Hunt family or their attorney to correct the record, Kelley Hunt Smith has on at least two occasions accused this site of lying without backing that claim up with any evidence. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I welcome any corrections Mrs. Hunt Smith, her family or her supporters can back up with something more substantial than "because Kelley says so"
I do not expect anyone to believe anything on this site simply at my insistence; I provide references to all source material for each of the facts I list here for this reason. I encourage everyone to do their own homework, review the relevant documents and the statements made by the Hunt family, apply critical thought and come up with your own conclusions.
We back up facts with solid documented proof. We think it would be awesome if Kelley Hunt Smith would do the same.
- Kaitlyn Hunt turned 18 years old on August 14, 2012 (arrest affidavit records her birthday is 8/14/94)
- Six days later, the school district held the first day of classes on August 20 (School District of Indian River County)
- According to some statements from the Hunt family, Kaitlyn began dating the 14 year old in September 2012. (Free Kate Facebook group "About" page)
- According to the arrest affidavit, the 14 year old girl stated that she and Kaitlyn began dating in November 2012 (more recent accounts by Kelley Smith Hunt have also indicated November) and listed at least three occasions in which sexual activity took place:
- According to Kaitlyn's mother, at some point between mid-January and mid-February Kaitlyn and the 14 year old girl stopped seeing each other. This isn't at all true, but pretending it is it's still unclear whether the claim would have the relationship ended before or after the night of February 7 when a group approached the Smiths with their concerns about the relationship.
NOTE: We now know, according to court filings, that Kate continued her relationship with the victim for several months after her arrest. Prosecutors have evidence that, in direct opposition to 2 court orders forbidden contact with the victim, Kate continued a relationship of a sexual nature by sending explicit text messages, pics, video and arranging secret meetings with the younger girl between March and August. We also know from the filing that not only did the relationship continue, but Kelley Hunt Smith was aware that it had.
- On February 8, the 14 year old and her parents first reported the sexual relationship to the police after being approached the previous night by a coach, other staff and students who raised concerns about the nature of the relationship. It is unclear from the redacted report what degree of awareness the Smiths may or may not have had of the relationship prior to the night of February 7. (IRC Case Report (PDF))
- On February 15, the 14 year old and her parents were further interviewed regarding the details of the offense. Also, a controlled phone call was conducted between the victim and Kaitlyn during which Kaitlyn confirmed the sexual relationship. (arrest affidavit)
- On February 16, Kaitlyn Hunt was arrested (Indian River County Sheriff's Office) and interviewed. In her statement, Kaitlyn confirmed that at least two of the sexual encounters took place (at some point in the school bathroom, and in her home on January 4), although according to her account the sexual activity began "after Christmas." (arrest affidavit)
For point of reference, this arrest occurred over 6 months after Kaitlyn's 18th birthday, and 10 weeks (nearly 2 ½ months) before the victim's 15th birthday.
- Based on the age difference stated by the Hunt family, the younger girl would have turned 15 years old in March, about 1 month after Kaitlyn's arrest and 6 months after the Hunts claim the relationship between the girls began.
We have since confirmed that the victim's birthday occurs very late in April. This makes the age difference between them actually more than 44 months, or more than 3 years 8 months.
The highlighted section is referenced on Kaitlyn Hunt's arrest affidavit.
Note that according to the text of the law, had Kaitlyn been 17 at the time of the sexual activity (and/or if the victim had been 15) the same statue would apply. The law makes no distinction between a 17 year old with a 14 year old and a 17 year old with a 12 year old. A child under 16 years of age cannot consent to sexual activity, regardless of the age of the defendant.
Also note the text of the statute does not take gender into account at all.
During a hearing on August 20, an additional charge was filed against Kaitlyn Hunt in response to her additional illegal conduct which occurred March through early August following a "no contact" order issued by the courts:
The highlighted section is referenced in court records from the 8/20 hearing.
From the start of the Free Kate movement (and even now) there has been widespread confusion about the basic facts of the case amongst supporters of the Free Kate movement. Among the widely-held misconceptions are:
- That Kaitlyn was 17 when the relationship with the younger girl began, and that the sexual relationship would have been legal had it occurred at that time.
- That the younger girl was 15 during the course of the relationship, and that it would have changed the circumstances of the case had that been the case.
- That the age difference between Kaitlyn and the 14 year old is "three years" or "two years" (it's closer to four years).
- That the younger girl's parents waited until Kaitlyn's 18th birthday before reporting the crime to police to enhance the legal case against her.
- That this case involved simply Kaitlyn and the 14 year old "dating" - that no evidence of sexual acts exist, or that sexual activity only occurred one time between them.
- That the law is somehow applied differently in cases where the sexual activity is same-sex, or the statute with which Kaitlyn is charged does not normally apply to circumstances similar to hers.
- That Kaitlyn was unaware that what she was doing could get her into trouble.
Despite being easily verifiable, most or all of these misconceptions are very prevalent in every forum in which Free Kate supporters are engaged. So where does the confusion come from?
- The petition created via change.org (Assistant State Attorney Brian Workman: Stop the prosecution of an 18 year old girl in a same-sex relationship) by Kaitlyn's father, Steven Hunt Jr., was used as the centerpiece of Hunt's efforts to enlist support via social media. It claimed "The two girls began dating while Kaitlyn was 17" - which is inconsistent with the family's own statements elsewhere and is completely untrue.
The petition also stated the victim's parents "waited until after Kaitlyn turned 18 and went to the police to have charges brought against her" which is a fabrication. This clearly is the basis for much of the confusion involving Kaitlyn's age when the relationship began and the misconception involving manipulation by the younger girl's parents, waiting to spring a trap upon Kaitlyn's 18th birthday.
NOTE: The text of the petition has since been quietly altered (subsequent to collecting of hundreds of thousands of signatures based on the original Hunt narrative) to reflect a more honest version of events; however, the original text has been archived online (June 24, 2013) and remains accessible through search engines as it had been duplicated on supporters' websites.
- A May 20 article written by Steven Hunt Jr. that appears at xojane.com claims "This relationship occurred when they were both minors, and my daughter's girlfriend's parents waited until she turned 18 to arrest her." This is still patently untrue.
NOTE: Bizarrely, after 4 months elapsed since the xojane.com article was published, Steven Hunt has decided to begin publicly denying he authored it (screenshot; Facebook thread removed shortly thereafter). No explanation has yet been given why the change.org petition, which was also authored by Steven, contained the same misinformation as the xojane article.
- Some reports contain complete false assertions attributed to the Hunt family. A prime example is a Mail Online article published on May 19th (Girl, 18, slapped with two felony charges and expulsion for same-sex relationship with 15-year-old classmate) which contains the following account:
- Most reports in news publications during the first few weeks of the online campaign were based on the initial Hunt narrative of events, and state incorrectly that the offenses occurred between an 18 year old and a 15 year old.
- In an open letter from Kelley Hunt Smith, Kaitlyn's mother states "these girls are teenagers in high school, who had ONE mutual consenting sexual experience." We know of at least 3 sexual encounters between Kaitlyn and the 14 year old, and that it had escalated from sexual activity in a bathroom stall to Kaitlyn picking up the 14 year old runaway and performing more extensive acts at the Hunt's residence.
NOTE: We now know, according to court filings, in direct opposition to 2 court orders forbidding contact with the victim, Kate had many more encounters of a sexual nature with the minor beyond and subsequent to those referenced in the original charges. We also know from the filing that Kelley Hunt Smith was aware of that fact at the time she had authored her open letter.
- During an appearance in court on September 25, 2013, Kaitlyn's attorney requested and was granted a continuance, moving the next docket call to November 21. When a record of this was uncovered by supporters in the Kate's Fight FB group, Kelley Hunt Smith claimed the defense requested this continuance because the prosecutor would be out of town for the next scheduled docket call and "nothing would be done" without him - apparently not realizing that this explanation makes absolutely no sense (it would be the prosecutor asking to postpone the proceding if that were true, not the defense). We contacted Kaitlyn Hunt's attorney's office and asked them the reason for the continuance; we were told by Attny Grave's office that it was due to depositions by the defense that are scheduled for October, contrary to Kelley's claims.
- In various Hunt family statements, the age difference is sometimes stated as "3 years and 7 months" or "3 years." On multiple posts to the "Free Kate" Facebook group Kelley Hunt Smith stated the age difference is "3 years," including one posted May 18. Two days later in a post dated May 20, in a statement she said was designed to provide clarity to the age questions, she cited a "3 year 7 month" age difference and insisted "Kate turned 18 once her senior year began," - when actually, prior to - "and her gf was 2 months shy of 15" - apparently failing to realize that by her own math the younger girl was 6 months away from 15 when they started dating, not two.
- The "Free Kate" Facebook group description (as of the time this page was authored, 5/24/13) begins the narrative this way: "As the summer of 2012 came to an end, the future looked bright for 17-year-old Sebastian River High School senior Kaitlyn Hunt." Strangely, the age of 17 is specifically cited here, despite Kaitlyn being 18 on the first day of school and when the relationship later started. This is part of the basis for much of the confusion regarding over Kaitlyn's age.
- The group description states: "The parents ... conspired with police to entrap Kaitlyn and press charges." Here the term "entrap" is used, even though no entrapment took place. The term is defined as "a defense that claims the defendant would not have broken the law if not tricked into doing it by law enforcement officials" - but in this case the law was already broken. What law enforcement actually engaged in at that time is routine detective work in order to confirm or discount the victim's statements. As per the Legal Update website:
- The group description states "The police recorded a phone conversation between the two girls, who today are 18 and 15, in which they discussed their relationship" - here, bizarrely, the current age of the younger girl is included, even though it has no relevance to the case. This is part of the basis for much of the confusion regarding the victim's age.
- The group description states "The law is designed to protect our children, but the law does not serve its purpose when it is applied to consensual behavior between peers." This suggests the law is being misapplied; however, the law is flexible enough to permit sexual activity between young adults ages 16 and 23. Since the law does allow for a degree of "wiggle room" in such cases (18 year old would not be charged for sexual activity with a 16 year old, while a 24 year old would be) it cannot be logically claimed the law is being misapplied in this case. Kaitlyn's offense simply fell far outside this wiggle room, as a 14 or 15 year old cannot under any circumstance engage in legal sexual activity.
- The website set up by Kaitlyn's father (freekate.net) states that Kaitlyn is "not guilty of anything other than a high school romance" and is being prosecuted "because she has a girlfriend." It goes on to claim that the charges are motivated (the implication here is entirely) by anti-same-sex beliefs of the victim's parents, but fails to mention the law concerns itself only with the age difference - in fact, he does not mention the age difference at all in the text here, as if it's not a factor in the case. The claims of anti-homosexual sentiments and the extent they played into the decision to press charges have yet to be backed up by any specific, verifiable documentation. The claim, however, is widely echoed in the press articles based on interviews with the Hunt family.
- In a Huffington Post article dated 5/24/13 (Kaitlyn Hunt Refuses Plea Deal: Gay Teen Charged Over Underage Relationship Will Appear In Court) many of the common misconceptions are again repeated.
This should more accurately read "charged with felonies for engaging in sexual activity with a 14-year-old peer."
Again, we know this whole version of events is a fabrication; since Kaitlyn was 18 when the relationship between her and the younger girl began, this version of events would have been impossible.
- "Stop the Hate, Free Kate" T-shirts for sale were heavily promoted by Kelley Hunt Smith and Steven Hunt in the Free Kate Facebook group. While it had been previously stated by Steven Hunt and Kelley Hunt Smith that the money from the sale of these shirts would be used towards legal defense, Kelley Hunt Smith later stated the sale of the shirts "was never for legal fees" as the gofundme account was the only method for raising legal fee donations. This is a clear indication that money was raised under false pretenses.
There are numerous other examples of misinformation in reports provided by the Hunt family.
* * * * *
It's worthwhile to note that the Hunt family come into this series of events with credibility problems of their own.
Steven R Hunt, Jr., Kaitlyn's father (who as we've seen has a tenuous connection to the truth) appears to have launched this movement by soliciting support and donations while still serving out a period of probation following a 2012 arrest for felony fraud charges. According to public records available online from the Indian River Country Circuit Court, the felony charge "832.041 - STOP PAY W INTENT TO DEFRAUD 150 DOLS OR MORE" resulted in an order on 7/23/12 of one year of probation and a fine. It appears that as a result of a "no contest" plea, the charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and adjudication was deferred pending the completion of his probation. (court record search, criminal judgment record (PDF))
Kelley Hunt Smith, Kaitlyn's mother, appears to have involved herself in the case by contacting the Kaitlyn's young victim on March 26 and joined Kaitlyn in instructing her to destroy evidence and lie about Kaitlyn's actions.
Kelley defended her actions on the Free Kate Facebook group by claiming there was no court-ordered prohibition on contacting the victim that applied to her.
Statements from law enforcement, the district attorney's office, and the victim's parents are sparse and issued only in response to pressure from Free Kate supporters.
Aggravate the case, indeed. That "there were conversations on social media that she knew she was 18 and she knew what she was wrong with a younger person" certainly doesn't help the Hunt family narrative either.
It's helpful to remember that no evidence... no documentation, transcript or other verifiable record has been made public that contradicts anything in the statement by the victim's parents. All we have to go on is the account provided by the Hunt family, who have shown by their actions and words that they themselves are simply not credible, and we're just supposed to take them at the word when it comes to the light they wish to paint upon the Smiths.
As far as I can see, there are two possibilities for defense strategy, neither of them strong:
We already know that Kaitlyn was recorded in a phone conversation with the victim confirming the charges and that Kaitlyn confessed to breaking the law in her arrest affidavit, so the first option clearly won't work. The second option would be more compelling if there weren't numerous documented cases (even in posts from supporters) of this law being applied in similar circumstances, so the second option seems like a non-starter.
As a legal matter, Kaitlyn Hunt simply has no defense.
Like their accounting of the basic facts of the case, the legal strategy for the Hunt family seems to be a moving target. During a press conference held May 22, their defense attorney "clarified that they aren’t pressing to get charges dropped completely" - however, the petition started by the family calls on the prosecutor to "stop the prosecution of Kaitlyn Hunt."
Kaitlyn Hunt was offered a plea deal by prosecutors to a lesser charge of child abuse, which carries a reduced sentence. The plea deal was declined on 5/24/13, Kate Hunt pleaded not guilty and the following statement was issued by her attorneys:
This much is true: "If this case involved a boy and girl, there would be no media attention to this case." All of the media attention this case has received has been at the strong insistence of the Hunt family, based entirely on the fallacious account provided by them to frame this as a same-sex issue.
Again, the timeline and the law are confused this time by the Hunt family's legal representation, which appears to be suggesting a 17 year old can legally engage in consensual sexual relationship with a 14 year old ("If this incident occurred 108 days earlier when she was 17, we wouldn’t even be here").
We contacted the State Attorney in this case, Bruce Colton, and asked him to clarify how his office would typically handle a case of lewd or lascivious battery by a 17-year-old offender against a 14-year-old victim. His response:
So as a legal argument, the "108 day" argument is meaningless and dishonest. Either way, it's irrelevant because the fact of the matter is Kaitlyn Hunt was 18 years old when she (on multiple occasions) engaged in sexual activity with a 14 year old, the most recent of which occurred about 155 days after Kaitlyn Hunt's 18th birthday.
The plea deal would have allowed Kaitlyn to avoid serving any jail time. It also appears to have been an opportunity for Kaitlyn to avoid being placed on the state's sex offender registry, as the lesser charge of child abuse that was offered does not appear to be included in the list of offenses that require one to be placed on the registry. Turning down the plea offer was a risky (and arguably ill-advised) move; if convicted (of a crime to which she has already confessed to) at trial and is sentenced to jail time and/or listed on the sex offender registry, it will be because of her own choice to turn down the opportunity to avoid these punishments.
* * * * *In late July or early August, a second plea offer was extend to Kaitlyn. According to offer, the terms include:
Assistant State Attorney Brian G. Workman writes in the text of the plea offer, "I believe this is a fair offer intended to protect the victim and her family while taking into account the defendant's future."
Kelley Hunt Smith reponded to the plea offer thusly:
The news of the plea offer and Kelley's reaction to it was all made public on August 14, one day prior to the DA's court filing of Notice of Violation of Conditions of Pretrial Release. According to that filing, Hunt "consciously and intentionally" violated court orders while informing the young girl that should it become know they're talking that she will go to jail until her trial, and instructing her to "Keep the fuck quiet."
On August 19 it was reported that, in light of the new allegations, the plea deal has been revoked by the prosecutor. During a hearing on August 20 it was determined that Kaitlyn's bond would be revoked, placing her in jail until her trial (date TBD). In addition to the original charges filed in February, a felony charge against Kaitlyn was filed during the hearing with regards to the electronic transmission of harmful content (texts, images and video) to a minor following her arrest and in violation of the no-contact order.
As the weight of evidence makes clear, the Hunt family is manipulating the facts in order to paint their effort as an LBGT rights crusade, taking advantage of those of us who believe in promoting equality while at the same time collecting tens of thousands of dollars for a "legal defense fund" from supporters who remain largely confused about the basic facts of the case.
In my opinion, this is tantamount to fraud... and THAT is the bigger story here. That Kaitlyn Hunt engaged in illegal sexual activity with a 14 year old girl is a big story in the media and focus of the movement, but it's not even the most unfortunate one. The bigger story is dishonesty and fraud. The bigger story is the demonization that's taking place of the victim's parents, of law enforcement, and the prosecutor... everyone but Kaitlyn Hunt... by those caught up in an emotional frenzy and operating entirely on a version of reality carefully tailored by the Hunt family.
That the Hunt family told self-contradictory and plainly false versions of the facts of the case is apparent and well-documented here. It's up to you to decide what their dishonesty means, but to me it's clear the Free Kate movement relied completely on the confusion and misdirection fostered by the Hunt family to manipulate supporters into an emotional response instead of relying on a fair, reasoned assessment. This movement would not have the support it has had the Hunt family conducted their effort with honesty and integrity, because the facts and the law are not on their side. Contrary to their claims, this is not a legal case based on hate, but...
... doesn't have the same ring to it, and leaves bare the truth that this is a case of a legal adult simply trying to avoid having to take responsibility for her own choices.
* * * * *
Fifteen will get you twenty is a well-known and often repeated maxim in teenage life, echoed in the halls of high schools and junior high schools across the country and through the generations. When this advice isn't heeded it isn't often because the offender didn't know the law, but because they didn't care and thought they could get away with it. We know Kaitlyn Hunt knew the law and broke it anyway, both before and after her arrest.
There are many defending Kaitlyn Hunt who argue that one doesn't suddenly become a wise adult on their 18th birthday... that the full development of maturity continues on into our twenties, and based on this there should be some leeway given to Kaitlyn. However, this argument proves exactly why age of consent laws are critical - if an 18 year old shouldn't be responsible for the grown-up decisions she makes about sexual activity, clearly a 14 year old isn't anywhere near the ballpark of the age in which she would be capable of making decisions about sex.
There are many defending Kaitlyn that feel a 14 year old ought to be able to consent to sexual relationships with an 18 year old. There are many suggesting that simply being in the same school or on the same sports team necessarily makes them peers on the developmental scale. But there is a huge difference developmentally between a 14 year old and an 18 year old. There's a power differential there that can be (and is) exploited by older students.
To suggest that an age of consent law be stricken or reduced is to suggest that the parents of a 14 year old have no say in whether their child can be sexually active with an 18 year old. It would remove any legal recourses that parents now have as tools to protect their children in cases of real abuse. I'm not comfortable with that, and frankly I'm suspect of parents who feel a 14 year old is prepared to take that responsibility for the kinds of huge decisions that can easily destroy their lives.
The law here is clear, and Kaitlyn Hunt's legal case is open and shut. But like I said, I believe there's something even more important than the legal case at play here...
An entire movement of supporters is built around false pretenses, the consequences of which include the demonization of law enforcement officers, who by all objective measures did their job professionally... of prosecutors in the DA's office, who likewise are simply doing their job... and most importantly, demonization of the parents of a 14 year old girl, who had every right to leverage the law to protect their daughter the best they could.
Whether the parents of the victim believe they are protecting their daughter from homosexual influences or simply protecting their 14 year old from an 18 year old is beside the point. Maybe they're loving parents acting to protect their daughter. Maybe they hold the entirely reasonable and widespread belief that a 14 year old should not be sexually active. Maybe they foolishly feared Kaitlyn's influence would seed homosexuality in their daughter. Maybe they're bigots. Maybe reality is a combination of these things. Their motives for reporting the crime against their daughter is beside the point. No matter what they feel they're protecting their daughter from, they have both the legal right and moral responsibility to protect their daughter, and that's exactly what they did.
In an online profile (screenshot, personal info redacted), the now-15-year-old victim herself describes her family this way:
In a series of Facebook posts (January 7, March 8, March 11, April 10) authored by the victim's mother, captured and posted on a blog (Amber's Cozy Nook, now defunct) by a supporter of Kaitlyn Hunt, a picture emerges of a loving mother struggling with the difficult choices a parent faces when doing their best to protect their child, even when the choice is an unpopular one. This flies in the face of the framing of Jim and Laurie put forth by Kelley Hunt Smith, who herself apparently takes a decidedly different approach to parenting, playing the part of the "cool" mom who encourages violence and obscenity in her children.
* * * * *
That the victim's parents become the biggest target of contempt because of the Hunt family's efforts is horrific. It's not just. It's unforgivable. That the basic truths of the case were wildly misrepresented by the Hunt family to do it make it that much more outrageous.
That manipulation was used to take advantage of a community full of generous people with good hearts who are ready to fight for equality is just as offensive. The dishonesty of the architects of the Free Kate campaign does damage to the credibility of the effort of legitimately persecuted people fighting against real abuse...
Not to mention the lives of the parents who fought to protect their daughter, and a 14 year old girl whose life will never be the same after becoming an unwitting participant in an international media firestorm that didn't need to happen. All of this... so an 18 year old doesn't have to accept the consequences of her own actions.