By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida high-school student charged in February with a felony sex crime over her affair with a younger girl accepted a plea deal on Thursday to avoid becoming a registered sex offender.
The case against Kaitlyn Hunt drew national attention after supporters accused authorities of picking on her because of her sexual orientation. Indian River County prosecutor Bruce Colton said Hunt was charged like any other adult for having sex with a child.
Hunt was 18 at the time of her affair with a 14-year-old schoolmate, whose parents called the police. She was charged with lewd and lascivious assault on a minor, a second-degree felony.
Hunt's lawyer, Julia Graves, told Reuters that Hunt accepted the plea offer because the possibility of conviction on the original charges was too risky.
"Kaitlyn Hunt is accepting the plea deal in her best interest as well as that of her family, the 'victim' and the 'victim's' family," Graves said. "It is time to enter a plea given the current state of the law and get back to living a somewhat normal life without fear of the unknown for everyone involved.
Under the deal, Hunt entered no contest pleas to a series of charges including misdemeanor battery and felony interference with child custody.
The deal calls for Hunt, who has been held in jail since late August, to remain in jail until December 20, followed by three years of felony supervision. If Hunt adheres to the conditions of her release, she will not be branded a convicted felon or registered sex offender and can ask for her case to be sealed or expunged.
Under the original charges, Hunt faced up to 15 years in prison and a requirement to register as a sex offender. Florida law prohibits anyone 18 or older from having sex with a minor.
Hunt previously rejected plea deals. Her father, Steven Hunt of Palm Bay, has said his daughter never thought about age difference, in part because the 14-year-old was physically larger than his daughter and they played on the high school varsity basketball team together. Hunt said the alleged victim's family refused to try to resolve the issue through mediation.
A statement issued by the family of the alleged victim, through their attorney Charles Sullivan Jr., said it was never their intent to do any harm to Kaitlyn Hunt.
"This case was never about gender or sexual orientation," said the statement, provided to WPTV in West Palm Beach. "It was about age-appropriate relationships and following the rules and laws of our society."
(Editing by Tom Brown, Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Adler)
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