Media has turned Hunt case into a circus

BY MARK SCHUMANN

IV.052413.Mark Schumann Head ShotLast weekend someone forwarded to me Steven Hunt’s impassioned online plea seeking support for his 18-year old-daughter, Kaitlyn.  The Sebastian River High School senior is charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery for allegedly having sexual relations with her 14-year-old girlfriend.

The person who forwarded Hunt’s social media post predicted the case would become a big story, and of course it has, with Hunt and her attorney, Julia Graves, appearing on NBC’s Today show.  The story also attracted the attention of CNN and The New York Times, among other national media.

An online petition supporting Hunt has drawn more than 250,000 signatures.  TCPalm.com posted 29 photographs taken at a press conference held by Hunt and her attorney.  In this instance, the media hasn’t so much covered the circus, as it has become a part of it, with more than a few reporters and pundits acting as clowns.

Witnessing the media’s feeding frenzy this past week, I am more convinced than ever that when it comes to reporting on complicated stories, the media is failing the American public.

The first thing to be said is that none of the more than 250,000 people who signed the online petition can reasonably assume they know all the relevant facts, nor have they necessarily comprehended the broader legal implications of their position.  Rather, they, along with many in the media, have chosen to see Hunt’s case as one of discrimination against homosexuality.

A local minister weighed in with a guest column warning against the “evils” of homosexuality.   The pontificating preacher’s mini-sermon did little to deepen the discussion.  Rather, the pastor’s moralizing only served to draw attention away from the legal issue of an adult having sex with a minor – regardless of their sexual orientation.

Excuse me for putting it bluntly, but consider this question.  Who honestly believes 250,000 signatures could have been gathered in support of an 18-year-old minority male in Hunt’s predicament?

What I find ironic about this story is that gay and lesbian rights activists are arguing that homosexual orientation, rather than being treated equally under the law, should be exempted from laws prohibiting persons of legal age from having sex with minors.

Either all are be treated equally in the eyes of the law, regardless of sexual orientation, or we are not.  It is simply not possible to have it both ways.  Pointing this out does not make me anti-gay.  I support marriage rights for same-sex couples, just as I believe in every other way all persons should be treated equally under the law, regardless of sexual orientation.

That is what I believe.  What I know is this:  With the exception of Hunt, her girlfriend, their parents, and a handful of law enforcement officers and attorneys involved in the case, we don’t even know what we don’t know about the relevant facts.

Now that Hunt has rejected the State Attorney’s offer for a plea bargain, her case will presumably be heard before a jury, possibly as early as July. Only then will pundits and the public have the facts with which to make an informed judgment.

4 comments

  1. circus, yes, and some bad reporting, surely. but as far as facts, let’s be clear on what we need to know. it was a pair of teens, it happens a lot even though no parent wants to believe that, and it could have been — should have been — handled without law enforcement. Teens make mistakes, teens experiment with their growing interest in sex, and teens need to be guided. Ruining a girl’s life with a felony charge because of this is wrong. Period.

    And yes, if it were an 18-yr-old boy and girl, or two boys, it would be the same in the eyes of many who signed the petition. Guiding and caring for your children, even in cases where they run away rather than talk to you, should not result in felony charges. As it did not result in felony charges when a young man and young girl were in the same position a few years back, in this same county.

    Lynne Larkin, Vero Beach

  2. Lynne, Are you certain the parents of the minor in the case did not first attempt to resolve this with Hunt and her parents? If it is ok for an 18-year-old (someone of legal age) to have sex with a 14-year-old, then how about a 28-year-old, or a 38-year-old having sex with a young teen? At what point does the fact that a person is of legal age become relevant? Can you point to an example of where such a petition drive was launched in support of a male in Hunt’s predicament? Finally, how familiar are you of the facts in the other case you cited? Were there any mitigating circumstances?

  3. I didn’t say I was certain of the other facts, Mark, and the “We did – we didn’t” first talk to each other [among the parents] is still at issue, but even if that came to no resolution, what is the good of putting both kids at the mercy of “justice” system? Yes, I believe there is a difference between an 18-year-old school mate and a 28 or 38-yr old who would have absolutely nothing in common with a 14-yr-old. This is a first offense, this is two teens who had an ongoing friendship – relationship. whatever the other factors are don’t mean you don’t punish, or guide or instruct. The law is treating this as a felony, that is my problem.

    The petition drive wasn’t attempted in the male case that Judy Graves cites, and so I cannot say what reaction would have happened then. I am not excusing either teen in either case — I’m not saying this is okay. I am saying felonies that follow you for life is not the way to go, in any case where it is not just a one-time having sex with another person who couldn’t say no. Both sets of parents have every right to be upset, to do things to protect their children. My argument is the felony charge.

  4. Thank you Lynne for expressing your self so clearly and crystalizing the central issue here. This issue is not about a criminal committing a felony and no one should have to suffer that label for a lifetime for doing what these two young people did.
    I signed the petition and emailed it to everyone on my email list.
    Do we really need to brand Kate for life as a felon? She may have made mistakes, but so have we all. The difference is that most of us got away with it. These two girls did not set out to commit a crime, they just had feelings for each other and expressed them.
    Many may not approve of what they did, but that doesn’t make either one one a felon.

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