BY DIANE DIMOND
Here’s a lesson everyone needs to learn. Don’t violate a court order. It will only make your problems worse.
There is never an acceptable excuse for going against what a judge has ordered. Not even if you think it is unfair. Not even if it’s a matter of the heart. Not long ago, I wrote a column — actually, a rather sympathetic column — about the plight of Florida teenager Kaitlyn Hunt.
At 17, Hunt’s high school sweetheart was just 14 and female. Because Florida’s statutory rape law stipulates that no one under 16 can legally consent to sexual contact, Hunt was expelled from her high school where she had been an excellent student and athlete.
In mid-February, Hunt was charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious behavior with a minor. Circuit Court Judge Robert Pegg issued a no-contact order instructing Kaitlyn to have no further contact with the younger girl.
I felt badly for the young sweethearts, remembering that awkward teen-time when I first thought I was “in love.” I suggested we might want to rethink current laws, given the inevitability of teens experimenting with sex. Yes, even same-sex relationships.
Now, I realize I’ve been had. Along with the rest of the media, I believed Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents and their assertion that Kaitlyn was just 17 and simply going where her wholesome little lovesick heart took her. Turns out she was actually 18 when she first had sexual contact with the 14-year-old.
I finally got my hands on the actual arrest affidavit, and there was Kaitlyn’s date of birth: 8-14-1994, and she is clearly described as being 18 years old when she took the younger girl into a stall inside a school restroom and engaged in sexual activity. (Most of the report includes language and descriptions of activities not fit for a family newspaper.) Kaitlyn even told the arresting officer that the relationship had begun nearly three months after her birthday.
Look, there’s no magic about an 18th birthday in terms of a person’s maturity level, but the law has to draw the line of adulthood somewhere. So, why would Kaitlyn’s parents lie about the age difference? They must have realized the legal implications of 17 versus 18.
Maybe that’s why they launched a distracting PR blitz after Kaitlyn’s arrest that stressed she was a sort of poster-person hero of gay discrimination. They exclaimed to reporters that Kaitlyn was actually a victim of the other girl’s “bigoted” parents, who had maliciously reported Kaitlyn to police for “turning their daughter gay.”
That wasn’t true, either. Those parents denied the charge in TV interviews, saying Kaitlyn had twice been warned to stay away, and they had contacted police as a “last resort.”
No one realized that all the while the controversy bubbled around her, Kaitlyn was hiding a monumental secret.
The Hunts kept up the drumbeat that every adult involved was ill-informed, insensitive and politically incorrect in their handling of the case. They appealed to gay activists to join their fight. The ACLU agreed to help the Hunts. A “SaveKate” Facebook page cropped up. More than 300,000 supporters signed an online petition urging prosecutors to drop the charges. No one talked much about that Florida law that declared a 14-year-old unable to consent to sex.
At the same time the Hunts were flooding the media with pretty, posed headshots of their wide-eyed and smiling daughter, the innocent-looking Kaitlyn was busy thumbing her nose at Judge Pegg’s no-contact order. How?
Just two weeks after that order was issued, Kaitlyn secretly slipped the younger girl an IPod and began sending her an almost constant stream of e-messages and lewd, nude photographs of herself. Prosecutors say they found that since March 1 Kaitlyn had sent 20,000 text messages to the “child victim,” including some that arranged secret face-to-face meetings. Court documents said the pair had sexual relations as recently as the end of July.
But that’s not all. It turns out that Kaitlyn’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, part of the brain trust that decided it was smarter to play the gay discrimination card instead of advising her daughter to admit she had broken a law, was on record giving cover-up advice to her daughter’s companion.
“Delete EVERYTHING,” Smith wrote in a text message to the younger girl. “PLEASE delete everything and make sure NO ONE finds out you’ve spoken to Kate at all.”
When all this new evidence was presented to Judge Pegg, he was not amused. At a special hearing this week, he ordered the now 19-year-old Kaitlyn to be held in jail until her unscheduled trial. He also added another new felony charge — transmitting material harmful to a minor by electronic equipment.
Too bad the Hunts never counseled their daughter to take the prosecutor’s generous plea offer, which in return for Kaitlyn’s admission of guilt, ensured she would not serve jail time and waived the state’s requirement that she register as a lifelong sex offender.
If you’ve got a teen in trouble with the law, do them a favor. Tell them to wipe the smirk off their face and take court proceedings very, very seriously. Tell them the story about Kaitlyn Hunt, and end with the fact that in addition to missing out on college and every other young adult pursuit, she now faces more than 15 years in prison.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net