Once again, the ethical complexities of applying statutory rape and age of consent laws to relationships between non-adults and just barely adults has led to an ethics train wreck. The worst example in recent years has been the epic criminal system abuse of Genarlow Wilson, which if you are unfamiliar with his story and its aftermath, you should catch up here and here. The Kaitlyn Hunt case,however, has potential to be an epic of its own.
It appears that Floridian teen Kaitlyn Hunt was involved in a consensual, same-sex relationship with another girl in her school while both she and her partner were minors. They had started dating at the beginning of the school year, and the relationship had been known to both parents for months. Clearly the parents of the younger girl did not approve, for when Kaitlyn turned 18—the other girl was 15—they filed a criminal complaint with police.
No doubt about it: under the law, Kaitlyn was a violator. The law, Fla. Stats. § 800.04,reads in relevant part…
A person who:
(a) Engages in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age …
commits lewd or lascivious battery, a felony of the second degree ….
That’s Kaitlyn. The statute is not gender specific, and she meets all of the criteria, as does her “victim.” As in the Wilson fiasco, however, the statute was never intended to apply to such a case, in this instance making a felon out of a teen who doesn’t end a consensual sexual relationship with another teen simply because she has a birthday. Nonetheless, Hunt was arrested and charged. The state attorney’s office offered Kaitlyn Hunt a plea deal including two years’ house arrest and a year of probation, which would stay on her adult record and limit her career choices.
Here is the ethics carnage and train wreck miscreants to date:
- Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and Kaitlyn, as an adult, continued a relationship with a minor after it has become a crime. The only ethical thing she did wrong, however, is violate a badly-drafted law.
- Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents knew about the relationship, as well as her birthday, obviously, and as citzens are charged with knowledge of the law. They failed their daughter by not warning her.
- The parents of Hunt’s girlfriend, according to Kaitlyn’s mother, never approached Kaitlyn’s parents or made any effort to resolve their objections to the relationship before going to the police. So cruel and unfair.
- If it has to be prosecuted at all, the “offense” should be dispensed with by the prosecutor, employing the most leniency possible. I think this is a superb example of when a prosecutor, in the interest of justice, should decide not to prosecute.
- The Florida legislature passed a bad law. All such laws should exclude this kind of situation, and consider other situations worthy of an exception.
- Finally, various media outlets and websites characterized the story as a case of anti-gay bias where a teen is being persecuted for a same-sex relationship. It might be anti-gay bias on the part of the parents, but as Eugene Volokh points out, the parents may well have had the same objections if Kaitlyn was a boy. This is misleading, trouble-making journalism.
- UPDATE: I omitted to mention the vigilante internet group Anonymous, which is also getting involved, making threats, and being arrogant. Any involvement by anonymous vigilantes in local law enforcement is unethical, no matter who or what they support.
Protecting children and teens from sexual abuse by adults exploiting their superior authority and status is a legitimate law enforcement goal, but it should also be a high priority to craft laws and enforcement policies so innocent teens like Genarlow Wilson and Kaitlyn Hunt don’t have their young lives permanently scarred.
Pointer: Alexander Cheezem
Sources: Volokh Conspiracy, Huffington Post, Examiner
36 thoughts on “The Kaitlyn Hunt Affair”
Its a badly written law that is being exploited by the parents. The law needs to be changed and the parents should be made to answer to why the releationship was fine when she was 17 but not when she was 18.
It wasn’t that they thought it was fine…they just couldn’t stop it without the law.
Even when Kaitlyn was 17, it was still illegal, just under a different statute. As we’ve thrashed out at the Volokh Conspiracy, anybody having sex with an under-16-year-old in Florida is breaking the law, even a couple who’re 16 and 15. Terrible law, terrible prosecutors. Very sad.
That’s like the law in the Wilson case, then.
Yah, via “WmOckham” at the VC thread:
“The 15 y.o./17 y.o. scenario is still illegal under that chapter; but it’s a third degree felony. The conduct becomes a second degree felony on the offender’s 18 birthday. Compare Ch. 800.04(5)(d) (offender under 18) with Ch. 800.04 (5)(c)(2) (offender over 18). Same difference exists in 800.04(6)(b) (over 18) and 800.04(6)(b)(c) (under 18).”
Which raises the sad question: did the parents wait for Kaitlyn to turn 18 out of sheer malice, so she’d be charged with a more serious offense?
My guess is that they weren’t aware of the other law.
They couldn’t get a wiretap to prove the offense with a Cat 3 felony, and the “victim” wouldn’t testify.
So they had to stay silent about their objections if they were to use their daughter as bait. But on the suspect’s 18th birthday, they went to the police. They had to move fast before their daughter turned 16, they only had a 5 month window.
The prosecutor BTW did not want to bring this case – the “victim”s parents insisted.
The actual arrest affidavit changes everything.
It’s been posted on the other commentary post, but I might as well link it here for those of you who haven’t read the comments there – -http://www.scribd.com/doc/142642135/Kaitlyn-Hunt-Redacted-Affidavit-Redacted .
That might have flown had they even tried Jack…but the parents didn’t try to stop the relationship by other means.
But it DID fly. It’s not right, but it worked. The law is 100% on their side.
From what I have read they didnt try to stop it. They waited until they had the law on their side to take any action. They sound like a couple of cowardly inept parents.
Or especially vicious.
Or maybe just parents who know that you wait until your ace in the hole becomes available before you play your hand. Had they tried to break this up beforehand the girls would have just sneered at them. No one is sneering now. If when the younger girl turns 18 they want to run off to Vancouver together, then let them. For now, the younger girl’s a minor, that means what her parents say goes, and the law is backing them.
True But using the law as a first resort rather than a last one is pretty weak parenting, and what they did to the older girl is a spectacular Golden Rule fail.
Or they are parents who dont know how to parent and were more interested in hurting the older girl then stopping the relationship.
The parents need to reread Romeo and Juliet, few things are as sweet as forbidden love to a teen. They’ve doubled down on their prejudice. The parents or the new adult might have thought that the endurance of the relationship precluded this kind of spitefulness. Disliking a relationship isn’t enough of a reason when they tolerated it before. Changing midstream had no precedent. Petty, petty.
I wish I had thought of R&J, or even “the Fantastiks” One more benefit of literature.
They even call this a R&J relationship when refering to this types of laws and how they were not intended for this type of relationship.
She will also most likely be labled a sex offender have to register if she is convicted.
Which is why she may not accept the plea deal. That’s what Wilson did, and he was sentenced to 10 years for accepting oral sex from a sophomore at a wild party who was servicing everyone on his team.
Florida has a problem with prosecutors who are too big for their britches.
They stand around down here in the hot sun until they start suffering from delusions of grandeur.
I know this county well and am not even surprised a little bit.
I’m only surprised she’s not currently in the stocks at the centre of town.
I just know they could shame the gay right out of her.
This part is just sad:
“But Hunt was kicked off the basketball team near the end of last year after the coach learned of the relationship because players were not allowed to date each other, her parents said. Then, in February, she was charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16. The day before she was arrested, police and the younger girl’s parents secretly recorded a phone conversation in which the two girls discussed kissing in the school bathroom, said Hunt’s father, Steve Hunt.”
Obviously the younger girl’s parents were going to stop this any way they could.
Additionally, none of the articles I’ve seen indicated that the two of them actually had sex. A relationship, sure, and sexual behavior of various sorts can probably be inferred (especially given the charges), but the most I’ve seen confirmed was kissing.
On the “plus side”, as it were, Florida _does_ have a Romeo and Juliet law which seems to apply here. Still.
Train wreck, to say the least.
Let’s make it clear.. These two girls had sex, when one was 14 and the other 18. It is black letter law. Not even the Romeo and Juliet provision of the law can be used.
Sexuality is not the issue here, although no one from the Rainbow Coalition wants to here that.. It is merely a blunt law that can be used by parents to end an unacceptable relationship.
There are many black 18 or 19 year old high school students who no one seems to care about being prosecuted under the same law.
If this case is thrown out without any punishment, the pendulum has truly swung in the the Alice in Wonderland direction.
See my update post, JJ. I think you are right.
Yes, the arrest affidavit (and the related information about the ages of the parties) changes everything.
I think the fact that it is two girls here means something — although some people won’t want to admit it. Typically, but not always, it is a slightly older boy and a younger girl. The thought (rightly or wrongly) is that young girls are impressionable and can be convinced/coerced into sexual relations with an older boy or young man. Also, boys tend to be larger and stronger than their female counterparts — especially if they are a few years older than the girl. If you’re talking about two girls though, some of that stereotypical power dynamic may be absent.
What should the cutoff be on statutory rape? Once the oldest turns 18 and graduates high school? Once the oldest starts collage? How long the relationship was going prior to the oldest turning 18, regardless of the parent knowledge? Shouldn’t the parents of the youngest involved be the best judge of their own child’s capacity to be in a healthy romantic relationship? If my 14-15 year old daughter was in a relationship with an 18 year old boy I would likely have a problem with it. I would have an even bigger issue if I felt the older kid was coercing my daughter into having sex with him.
I didn’t dig really deep into this story but the ones I read all seem to be very one sided and focus on the same sex angle. I didn’t see anything about when the younger girls parents found out about this, what they have done to remedy the situation prior to contacting the police or if there was any contact between the parent to resolve the situation. I don’t see one quote from the younger girl’s family, but a whole lot of inference that they were anti-gay. Even if they were does that mean they can’t judge their child’s capacity to be in a sexual relationship? Was the older girl aware of the younger parent’s objection and continue the relationship? If so does that change the ethical call in your mind?
“Shouldn’t the parents of the youngest involved be the best judge of their own child’s capacity to be in a healthy romantic relationship?”
Our sixteen year old daughter, for a time, was involved with an 18 year old boy. We liked him very much. He was polite, kind, and was welcome in our home. We were not naive. We kept an ongoing, open conversation with our daughter. Interestingly enough, it was HIS parents who kept reminding their son of our daughter’s age. We were appreciative of that. It was obvious that both sets of parents were looking out for their own child’s best interest.
Brought a chuckle to me as I was reminded of the movie Carnage ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1692486/ )
I’m not up on the current CO laws, but when I was younger, I remember it being something like,
1) Age of consent is 16
2) Age difference is limited to 4 years.
So, 15 and younger could not consent under any circumstance, but once 16, they could consent to anyone up to 20 yrs.
Wouldn’t have helped Kate, but at least there’s some additional clarity. Of course, back then, we didn’t have the exposure that kids do now. I was in HS in the late 90s. Cell phones were rare and police surveillance even more. With the growth of technology, kids are held more and more to the strict letter of the law when targeted by a vindictive party.
I imagine back in the 50s and 60s, it amounted to a “wild west”. I guess that’s what I’ll have to teach my daughter, how not to get caught? (is that too harsh of a phrase?) Teach her how to cover her tracks? How to not leave a heap of evidence?
“Show me the man, I’ll show you the crime.”
Concerning the Genarlow Wilson case: Of course it’s terrible what happened to an aspiring young athlete, probably a football player, who thought nothing of it to share some girl for oral sex with his buddies at a party. Even if said girl was willing and volunteering it. It was too much to expect the gentlemen to turn down such an offer for the girl’s own good. Boys will be boys, of course.
But what I find most disturbing is that the other blog’s author deems the behaviour of said 15-year-old girl merely “overly-friendly”. Something is seriously wrong in so young a mind if it thinks it’s a fun idea to perform fellatio on some strange guys at a party… I don’t think I’m overreacting when I say the girl is probably the victim of abuse (domestic or otherwise). That is not normal behaviour. And if anyone thinks differently then something is wrong with society.
Let me clarify—I’m the author of virtually everything on the Ethics Scoreboard, and the post wasn’t about the 15-year old girl. I’ll cop to being tongue-in-cheek flip—it’s a flaw— about the girl’s mass fellatio stunt, but though “overly friendly” is an understatement, it is not inaccurate. My point is that a teenaged girl who volunteers to give oral sex to a slightly older teen age boy may technically be a victim, just as Monica was technically a victim, but her overtures were the trigger, and accepting the offer shouldn’t be a felony.
Also technically, “Overly friendly” does not suggest “normal” to me. I would also describe someone who gives his money out to every stranger on the street with an invitation to dinner “overly friendly,” but it sure isn’t “normal.”
Well, in that case let me say that I thought the phrasing in poor taste and inaccurate in so far as it suggests the image of an evil 15-year old girl who forced her attentions on an unwilling 6-feet tall athlete. The phrasing also does nothing to endear Wilson’s case to one. I assume the intention was to downplay his part in the whole debacle but what really would have struck the right chord with me would have been something like this: The 10 year sentence is in this case unjust and unproportional to the offence. Yes, he behaved like an a**hole, but that should not be and is not punishable by law.
It wasn’t to downplay anything—he obviously isn’t a sexual predator. And how do you get “evil” out of “overly friendly”? I call giving out BJ’s instead of hugs and kisses to a whole athletic team overly friendly–in fact, it’s spectacularly overly friendly. (I think the girl is unwell, myself). Nor am I trying to endear Wilson to you—he wasn’t blameless in the encounter, and the whole party that got him arrested was essentially an orgy, with at least two girls completely debasing themselves. But 10 years was ridiculous.
@ 14 she can’t consent to sex with another class mate but if she would have murdered her she would be tried as an adult..smh I never understand the law