SEBASTIAN, Fla. - Kelley Hunt Smith said it's been a nightmare since her daughter, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt, was arrested on a charge of "lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years old."
"She's scared to death, she can't sleep," said Smith, from her and Kaitlyn's home on Sunday night.
Smith said Kaitlyn became friends with an under-age female student at Sebastian River High School at the beginning of the school year.
"They began a dating relationship," Smith recalled. "Never in my mind did I consider what that meant."
Kaitlyn, a former cheerleader and basketball player, was expelled from school after the arrest. Smith hopes what she calls the "overwhelming" online support could somehow help get Kaitlyn's charge dropped.
Their family's "Free Kate" Facebook page has more than 14,000 members, and their change.org petition has more than 40,000 signatures.
"I just put our story out there on Friday," said Smith. "I wanted people to know what was going on. Within thirty minutes, I had so many outpouring support. On Saturday evening, we crashed the change.org website. The president of change.org contacted us personally."
"She is the sweetest girl," Smith continued. "I wondered if I was crazy, if it was only because I'm a mom. But I wondered if anyone else thought, like me, that this was wrong and unjust. Apparently, they do."
The family also created an online account to assist with their $50,000 legal fees incurred, according to Smith.
Smith spent all Sunday morning passing out 1,000 "STOP THE HATE, SAVE KATE" green bracelets. She is hoping the attention could help to avoid a trial.
"It's not something I want for my daughter, and it's not something I want for the other girl," said Smith.
Smith said the relationship was consensual. She questions why the parents of Kaitlyn's girlfriend chose to press charges.
"You get with me, and say, 'hey, as a mom, this is going on and I don't like this, let's talk about this,' " said Smith. "I would have sat down with her, I would have sat down with our children, and I would have nipped it in the bud, and I would have respected her."
The state attorney's office has offered Kaitlyn a plea deal, which would include two years of house arrest.
Smith doesn't feel Kaitlyn deserves the penalty if they don't accept, and they lose her case. She denies her daughter's actions were criminal.
"She would have a lifetime sexual offender on her record," said Smith. "She would not be able to; we think we all know what that means. It's a death sentence for her, her life would be over at 18."
"Kaitlyn would not hurt a fly," said Smith. "She didn't know what she was doing was quote, unquote 'wrong' or illegal. There was no intent to hurt anybody or commit a crime. I know that's not an excuse for the letter of the law, but it's reality."