Kaitlyn Hunt becoming symbol in Vero Beach

SEBASTIAN, Fla. - Kaitlyn Hunt is going for it all. Instead of accepting a plea deal that would have allowed her to avoid jail time, she is headed to trial.

Hunt did not appear in public today as she did for yesterday's rally, but her lawyer, Julia Graves, made waves, saying in a statement:
 
"Our client is a model citizen. She has been placed in an environment of school with her classmates... where they... are allowed to have... contact without barriers. When something develops... as a result of this environment created by the State, it leads to criminal prosecution."
 
Nadine Smith, head of the gay rights group Equality Florida, says they've connected Hunt's family with lawyers and signal that they'll using social media to keep the heat on state attorney Bruce Colton.
 
"Something has gone terribly wrong with the application of the law that is intended to stop adults from preying on children," said Smith. "We certainly are encouraging people to speak up, reach out to the state attorney's office to express outrage. So far, people are doing that."
 
This is going beyond just Kaitlyn Hunt.
 
A statewide discussion is coming.
 
"We are going to fight to have the law changed so no other teenager finds themselves in this position," Laeyer said.
 
They argue it's unfair for Hunt to face charges for a relationship that developed in a public school setting, saying:
 
"If this incident occurred 108 days earlier when she was 17, we wouldn't be here... The State is willing to take this teenager's life away over 108 days. Now we as counsel need to get down to the serious business of fighting for this teenager's life."
 
Today the state attorney said he provided an extremely lenient plea deal which would have let her avoid jail and avoid being labeled a sex offender.
 
The endgame will happen in court, but the court of public opinion is in full effect, with hopes that widespread attention won't taint the jury pool.
 
Even before she decided not to accept a plea deal with a no-jail guarantee, she had a following.
 
Now that she's risking fifteen years behind bars, Kaitlyn Hunt is a symbol.
 
"Good for her, good for her," said Melissa Weir of Fort Pierce.
 
For some, Hunt symbolizes the fight for gay rights.
 
But Weir says it's about the right for teens to be teens.
 
"They're all in school together, they're friends, they play sports together, they have a great time being teenagers and enjoying what teenagers do. And unfortunately teenagers do have sex, " said Weir.
 
Damien Gilliams - a bar owner in Sebastian - says he's disappointed that she's accepting the possibility of jail and of registering as a sex offender.
 
He's concerned that a heated trial will overshadow Sebastian.
 
"Sebastian is a hometown. I've been living here thirty years. I don't know if I want the world community to look at us. I want them to remember us for great fishing, Pelican Island, the Wildlife Refugee," said Gilliams.
 
He's also keenly aware that neighbors could be called to serve on the jury.
 
With all the exposure, he hopes jurors will remember that trials are only decided in court, no matter how symbolic a defendant has become.
 
"I would like to think that Indian River County voters, who are people who sit in the jury selection pool, are fair people. They're well-educated," said Gilliams.

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