Kaitlyn Hunt Accepts [Generous] Plea Deal

5 10 2013

Have you guys heard about Kaitlyn Hunt, a Florida high schooler accused of sexual assault? There was significant news and social media coverage of the case in the spring, but surprisingly few people I have encountered are up on the story.
I have been reading about her, and the situation, for the better part of 2013. I waited to post anything regarding the case, in hopes that it would resolve itself before much more damage to the self-esteem and reputations of all involved was tarnished much further.

That sort of came to fruition in the form of a plea deal, which Hunt accepted this week.

Regardless of who you support in this, Kaitlyn Hunt or her girlfriend/the victim, we all have to agree that This. Is. A. Mess.

Stephen Hunt, Kaitlyn Hunt and Kelly Hunt Smith seated in the gallery of an Indian River County courtroom (Photo Credit, Keith Carson for Vero News)

Stephen Hunt, Kaitlyn Hunt and Kelly Hunt Smith seated in the gallery of an Indian River County courtroom
(Photo Credit, Keith Carson for Vero News)

The gist of the saga is Hunt entered into a relationship with a female teammate last year. Both girls were students at Sebastian River High School; Hunt was a senior, the other girl was a freshman… which itself poses a problem with state statutory laws. After a few months of ‘dating,’ the relationship became sexual.

When their basketball coach  became aware of their involvement, he called the younger girl’s parents. Shortly thereafter, in February, the girls’ parents, Laurie and Jim Smith, called the police.  (Though their daughter, who is a minor, has remained unnamed in this epic- Kelley Hunt Smith wasted no time name-dropping her parents on a now defunct Facebook page.)

It has been reported that sexual contact occurred twice in the bathroom at school, and on one occasion at the Hunt home, after the girlfriend ‘ran away from home.’
Hunt was not only kicked off the basketball team when her relationship came to light, but was forced out of Sebastian River HS and enrolled in an alternative school.

Upon her arrest, it was speculated that a conviction for lewd & lascivious battery of a child could land Hunt in prison for 15 years and require her to register as a sex offender.
In 2007, the Florida state senate passed a law, known as the Romeo & Juliet law, that would allow high school age people engaged in a relationship to petition the court for leniency (of sorts), thereby distinguishing them from true child predators.  It was suggested that Hunt could/would appeal for this categorization moving forward to [avoid] trial.

It has also been widely spread, by Hunt supporters, that among the complainants’ (unnamed partner’s parents) reasons for pursuing this case, is they think Hunt coerced their daughter into a same-sex relationship– suggesting that their child is not in fact gay.
There has been an incredible movement to “Free Kate” thanks in part to her family’s vocality online. People protesting that the other girl’s parents were being vindictive because they don’t accept their child’s orientation; that Hunt is being persecuted for being a lesbian; and that Hunt doesn’t deserve to be jailed because “she is just a kid.”

In a segment of ABC’s “20/20,” which aired on October 4, 2013, Laurie Smith admitted that “We’ve had the conversation, and I’m perfectly fine with who she is.” Effectively negating all the allegations of hate the “Free Kate” camp had been spewing.
This statement reiterated what the Smiths shared with WPEC-TV back in May; this whole debacle is NOT a matter of race, orientation or personality, but age. They claim to have warned Kaitlyn to stay away from their daughter on two occasions, because the relationship was “wrong,” before resorting to involving local authorities.

Kaitlyn Hunt, self portrait

Kaitlyn Hunt, undated self portrait.

Hunt, who turned 19 in August, has been jailed for violating a no-contact order. It was discovered that Hunt continued to exchange thousands of text and picture messages with the victim. A judge revoked her bond, and a(nother) plea deal was rescinded.  It has been suggested that Kelley Hunt Smith, Kaitlyn’s mother, was not only aware of continued contact, but herself urged the victim to cover their tracks.

This week, Hunt accepted a plea deal in which she pleaded ‘no contest’ to two counts of misdemeanor battery, misdemeanor contributing to the dependency of a child and two counts of felony interference with child custody.
Prosecutor Brian Workman stated that, per the agreement, Hunt “will be sentenced to four months in jail, to be followed by two years of house arrest with electronic monitoring, and nine months of monitored probation after that.”

She will not have to register as a sex offender, and has the option of petitioning for her case file to be sealed and/or expunged after 10 years. However, Workman added that “If she violates the terms of her supervision, the judge may sentence her to any lawful sentence, including prison.”

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My issues with this case and all the debate it’s sparked:

– An 18 year old and a 14 year old, regardless of orientation, is a cut and dry crime. Its common sense; two people in very different phases of their adolescence have no business being together!   If Kaitlyn Hunt were a boy, this hoopla would not be happening; nobody would be protesting anything. The bottom line here is that a 14 year old cannot consent to any kind of intimacy, and that is the violation Kaitlyn Hunt has to answer for.

I think in an effort to prevent a situation like this, the laws should be taught within high school health class/sex education– just like “No means No” and “Drunk people can’t consent,” high schoolers should be made aware that age laws matter too.  I do not believe Kaitlyn Hunt should be labeled as any kind of predator in the future– but she did behave defiantly after she had had been charged. Hunt blatantly disregarded the order to stay away from her girlfriend and continued to send private messages and photos/video to the younger party. She definitely dug herself a little deeper, as evidenced by the plea deal that Vero Beach prosecutors took off the table following her bond revocation.

– Hunt family attorney, Julia Graves, has stated that they wish to work with lawmakers following Kaitlyn Hunt’s release in order to change the law so teenagers attending the same school cannot  be prosecuted for engaging in sexual relationshipsAre you kidding me? The arguments that laws are unfair, considering public schools have students who are of age enrolled simultaneously with those who are under the age of consent, are ridiculous. Are districts supposed to reassign staff and students to new buildings? That would be a logistical and tax nightmare no one would volunteer to participate in. I think the Romeo & Juliet law sufficiently addresses these scenarios, if they are unable to be resolved in pre-trial mediation.

Kaitlyn’s mother, Kelley Hunt Smith, had been active in writing on a Facebook group (the page has since been taken down); sharing content I don’t feel was particularly helpful to her daughter or the looming legal situation. 
(Ex:) “Does my daughter deserve to lose her life for 15 years, or 3 years, or to have no life, because of one choice she made in high school, absolutely not!!”
(Ex:) “The (assistant) state attorney, Brian Workman needs to use taxpayers money to prosecute REAL criminals, not a high school student who has never been in trouble a day in her young life, all because she had a mutual consenting relationship with someone who has bigoted parents.”
—> INTERESTING REBUTTAL TO THIS SEEMINGLY DEVOTED MOTHER’S PARENTING STYLE AND OVERALL APPROACH TO LIFE <—

It’s not like she’s Casey Anthony. By the time her probation/house arrest is over, people outside her town will largely have forgotten about her/this. Kaitlyn Hunt was able to walk with her class at Sebastian River High School’s graduation, and will have the opportunity to take college classes online while she is finishing her sentence– so she isn’t quite ‘losing time’ or ‘ruining her future’ as her family suggests. This black cloud will not follow her forever. She should be grateful she isn’t having to register as a sex offender! If she is truly the warm, personable girl her family has claimed, she should be able to gracefully explain her situation to future partners and employers.

 

 

UPDATE —> Kaitlyn Hunt gives an interview from jail; not really taking responsibility for her behavior AT ALL.





Michigan Mother Arrested for Attempted Murder of Disabled Teen Daughter

7 09 2013

I am so appalled by a People magazine brief I read online about this Michigan mother who tried to kill her autistic 14-year-old.  I can’t not comment on this.

Kelli Stapelton Mug Shot; Benzie County, MI

Kelli Stapelton Mug Shot;
Benzie County, MI

I can imagine, to a degree, what it’s like to parent a differently abled child; as my mother has been an educator and administrator in the special ed sector for nearly three decades. She worked with kids who were emotionally disturbed, had mental retardation, and autism. I have grown up being exposed to, and fairly well educated on, their issues and limitations, as well as the strategies and successes; and participated in different activities with and for autistic children and young adults. On several occasions, particular students that struck a chord with her would be brought into our home and included in family activities.
My mom’s stories about some of the pitiful families these kids come from turn your stomach and break your heart. These children are not disposable, not a single one of them, no matter how impaired or volatile. People with patience can achieve results that will leave the kid feeling capable and valuable.

That said, reading about the the accused, Kelli Stapleton, sent me immediately into a kind of rage. HOW could any parent kill their child? HOW could any parent of a disabled child turn on them that way? HOW will this girl, if she ever recovers, be able to trust her mother (and primary caregiver) again?!

I was compelled to read Stapleton’s blog, which is titled “The Status Woe,” which was not only referenced but quoted in the People article. (DISCLOSURE: Like this page, it is hosted by WordPress.)

I cannot believe what I read.  It is one thing to advocate for your child, a very necessary thing whether they fall on the spectrum or not, but quite another to admit to bullying your way to get what you want-– when the trained professionals have a different plan for how best to manage your child’s day to day. “It takes a village,” unless Kelli Stapleton lives in that village. She is a one-woman show.
Besides the fact that this woman has put their entire lives, every bloody detail, out there for the world when her daughter has no way to protest; I was disturbed by the amount of attention-seeking and immature illustrating Stapleton does.  How can someone expect to be respected and taken seriously when they have adorned their “website” with gifs and banners, admitted to being profanely vulgar towards a county mental health staff, or chastising a teacher (and co-worker of your spouse!) because she dared to do her job and input on the ‘behavior plan.’

There are certain phrases, buzz words if you will, that people in this industry- parents, educators and aides, and (OT/PT) therapists- do not use. (Ex: Normal.) Stapleton’s blog is littered with them and she places blame on the child for behavior she is not yet able to control (Ex: stating her daughter makes their homelife ‘horrific’). These are not altogether unforgivable offenses, but they raise red flags.  Stapleton is very ‘me me me,’ telling the Traverse City Record-Eagle last February that she started her blog because “I felt like I needed witnesses… If I didn’t survive this situation, I wanted people to know that I was a good mom and I did everything I could do, and I asked for help from all these resources.”
She even blogged that, “For 12 years, I have done a fabulous job of complementing professionals to stroke egos, kissing enormous asses to get needs met, flexing my muscles when necessary, and begging when it was called for,” but stated outright that no one would be “FUCKING WITH THE BEHAVIOR PLAN.” Seems to me like it’s Stapleton’s way or the highway, and that means her daughter’s well-being hangs in the balance.

I won’t feign sympathy for someone who tried to kill their child, and being that her family has volunteered personal information by way of that blog, and a Facebook group, I CAN CRITICIZE HER ALL I WANT.

Isabelle, and her father, Matthew Stapleton. Photo source: The Daily Mail (UK)

Isabelle, and her father, Matthew Stapleton.
Photo source: The Daily Mail (UK)

Stapleton’s husband, Matthew, wrote (in part) on the “Team Issy” Facebook September 5th: “So many of you have been very supportive of Isabelle and my family… and for this we are grateful. We are blessed with supportive friends, family, and an incredible community. Even strangers have been supportive of Issy and we ask that they continue to do so during this tough time.
We are also aware of the many stories and rumors that can accompany such events. We ask that you continue to keep the focus on Isabelle’s recovery and not necessarily on the events that have brought us to this unfortunate fight for her life. We ask that people don’t judge, but instead direct their positive energies on the recovery of this beautiful young lady.”

Seriously?  Haven’t you asked your community for enough?  They bought bracelets and t-shirts, they signed petitions and sent letters, they consistently fundraise. Your wife, who previously said the community’s continued support was “just so humbling and beyond generous and amazing”, just tried to kill your daughter.  How dare you even consider asking more of them.

Autism is no one’s choice, but the situation the Stapleton’s now find themselves is entirely Kelli Stapleton’s fault. Her choices to strong arm the insurance companies, the clinical organizations and therapists, the school district… all lead to this family’s back being against a wall and their daughter with no program to attend. Stressful as that is, killing her solves none of the problems, and further, doesn’t teach her mother to be less selfish.  Several news outlets (GOOGLE IT, I can’t link to them all) report that the “incident” was a murder-suicide… perhaps. But as we see entirely too often with filicide, the parent survives. THAT is why Kelli Stapleton has been charged with a crime, THAT is why Kelli Stapleton deserves to be in jail, THAT is why Matt Stapleton should get a good divorce lawyer.

I look forward to the comments and continuing coverage of this story. I can only hope it reaches national news channels and crime shows (I’m looking at you, Nancy Grace), and justice is properly served for this girl.

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UPDATE     Despite statements made to police that Stapleton believed it was time she and her daughter “went to heaven,” as she had reached “her wit’s end” with her daughter’s condition; a court appearance has been set to determine her competency in participating with her defense.  Stapleton admitted that she lured the girl to the family van, drugged her, and then set ablaze two charcoal grills to kill them both– because “this would be the best solution for the family” to end the her frustration with the girl’s condition– according to trial transcripts and a Michigan State Trooper affiliated with the case.
Kelli Stapleton’s husband, Matt, who is prinicipal of Frankfort High School, has petitioned for divorce and full custody of their three children.

I think it’s very clear what Stapleton’s motivations and intent were, and there should not be a judge or jury in the world compassionate enough to believe that a mother who claims to have devoted her entire existence, and blogged about it for all to see (praise), to creating a full life for her daughter, could have “snapped,” or behaved in such a way without premeditation.  This was her life for over a decade, which means she had nearly 4,000 days to consider how, when and where to kill her middle child.

 





Continually Making Facebook ‘Better’ Aggrivates Users

5 08 2013

Yahoo News! reported today on yet another pending change to the Facebook we know and hate to love: unavoidable video ads on your news feed.

n4_34869703_9648Though the ads will allegedly run a mere 15 seconds, and be limited to 3 spots per day for each user, it does (again) pose a pretty nagging question: Does Mark Zuckerberg care more about making money, or about his user’s preferences?  (I think we know the answer.)

Past upgrades and adjustments to the social networking giant have proven unwanted, but the uproar usually dies down quickly.  From tickers to check-ins, timeline and incessant game invitations, we have apparently all opted to roll with the punches since we obviously aren’t willing to give up our profiles.
A 2011 planned site boycott, “Quit Facebook Day,” yielded just over 40,000 participants. That figure is barely a drop in the bucket, considering that about 250 million users log on each dayDoes Zuckerberg and other Fb honchos think that they have such a hold on us that they can do whatever they like?

I for one miss having the option to ‘throw a sheep’ at someone, record a (usually silly, potentially intoxicated) video wall post, or fill my sidebar with obnoxious ‘bumper stickers.’ Where did those fun features go? By the wayside, to make room for the short-lived “See Friendship” option, the cover page, and stats from Candy Crush Saga.

I think Zuckerberg created (I hesitate to use the word invented, for fear of litigation from the Winklevii. I kid! They’re kind of adorable in all their simmering rage.) a good site. A site we didn’t know we needed.  But I suspect there is significant pressure from his now-ginormous company, and all the folks that came on board to help run it, for him to continue to make great innovations.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is obviously not a memo they pass around.
I can understand that complacency is not acceptable in today’s technological world, but it’s our own fault this is the mentality. Your iPhone does NOT need to be upgraded every 7 months, nor does Apple need to be releasing a $400 device with minimal adjustments with such frequency. (Is outdoing yourself really an accomplishment?)





As If We Don’t Waste Enough Time on Facebook…

29 01 2011

The classic games “Oregon Trail” and “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” have been revamped from their pixelly 80s & 90s graphics and formatted for play on the popular social networking site, Facebook.

 

The fifth grader deep inside me, still angry about the plight my “family” faced crossing the great frontier, is thrilled to once again have the chance to dodge poisonous snakes, repair broken wagon wheels, and hopefully not catch the measles.

I’m also looking forward to rekindling the simple pleasure and sense of adventure that came from hunting Carmen Sandiego and her goons across the globe.  Hopefully I know as much historical and geographical trivia now as I did back in the day!

Good thing I’m graduating from college in a couple months, because I cannot imagine getting work done once these games are released by Facebook. My alliance to Bejeweled Blitz is officially wanning…





“Digital Deaths” Do Little to Stave Off Disease

4 12 2010

Several celebrities, active in the Twitterverse, signed on for the “Digital Death” campaign- in which they would signoff until fans coughed up some cash for the “Keep A Child Alive” organization.

Beginning December 1, World Aids Day, Twitter and Facebook favorites Lady Gaga, Ryan Seacrest, Kim Kardashian and Justin Timberlake would “[sacrifice] their digital lives to help save millions of real lives affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.”

The website set up for this stunt, www.buylife.org, promises that “when $1,000,000 is reached, everyone will be back online and tweeting in no time.”

Promotional images of singer Alicia Keys and TV personality Ryan Seacrest for "Digital Death" campaign.

Dylan Stableford, of The Wrap, points out several flaws in this marketing scheme; “organizers put a $10 minimum on donations. Alicia Keys or Lady Gaga fans might be willing to part with a cup of coffee, but not what it would cost to download their next album on iTunes” and “keeping the celebrities off Twitter and Facebook during the donation process, the campaign is losing an enormous amount of social media marketing” from the celeb supporters themselves!

Stableford reports that as of Thursday afternoon a mere $165,835 was raised out of the desired $1,000,000.

The LA Times online is conducting a reader poll– so far 76% of participants find the campaign to be “emotional blackmail.”

Child star Danny Bonaduce had an interesting perspective on the project:
“. . . Didn’t Ryan Seacrest just sign a contract for $60 million? Do I really need Lady Gaga to tell me about her meat dress, and until she does, I have to give money? How about if these three get together and just put up $333,000 each and take care of the million bucks on their own since the American public pays their salary in the first place?”





A Final Look At Pros & Cons of Social Media

1 12 2010

The internet is ever expanding, and so is our interest in, use of, and potentially our dissatisfaction with it.

We asked several people, from twentysomethings to thirtysomethings to fortysomethings, in various vocations about their familiarity and frequency of use in today’s social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

As social sites have exceeded the original intentions of their creators- personal communications- and entered more public and sometimes professional realms, a number of things need to be considered…
the most of important of which is P R I V A C Y!  Assuming only your approved friends will see your silly and sarcastic commentary is naive. You must be aware of what you say, when, where, and who is able to view it. Get familiar with the security settings of your chosen profile platform!

 

 People who have benefitted or suffered from online content:
-Paul Chambers: A frustrated tweet got this Brit fired from his job, and convicted of menacing charges.

-Keenan Cahill: This teen gained quite a following for his humorous lipsyncing on Youtube… so much so that he was recently invited to appear on the nighttime talk show “Chelsea Lately.”

-Tyler Clementi: 18-year-old Rutgers student lept to his death after his college roommate secretly recorded and broadcast a romantic encounter Clementi had.

-Betty White: The veteran actress has made a comeback since her days on “The Golden Girls,” with help from a youthful spirit and youthful fans. White hosted a special Mother’s Day episode of ‘Saturday Night Live’ last May, after head producer Lorne Michaels gave in to the facebook campaign by fans who wanted the 88-year-old to appear.





New Batch of Girls on “Teen Mom 2”

18 11 2010

Is MTV stupid crazy?  Does it make sense to anyone for this network, that has recieved significant criticism of late for their lack of music programming, to mess with the lineup of one of their top shows?

Executive producer of the smash hit “Teen Mom” Morgan J. Freeman told USA Today that a new cast of teen mothers, who can also be seen on the “16 & Pregnant” series, are being filmed, with no announcements yet who will be the breakout 4 families.  This docudrama will not be a re-cast, but rather a sequel to the largely popular spinoff, he says.


 ^  Season 1 Trailer for MTV’s “Teen Mom”  ^

 

The original “Teen Mom” girls- Maci Bookout, Catelynn Lowell, Farrah Abraham, and Amber Portwood- have been on-air since December 2009, and have raked in 3.5 million viewers per episode, with finale/reunion specials grabbing as many as 5.5 million watchers.  “Teen Mom” is the second highest rated series on the MTV network, behind only the controversial “Jersey Shore.”

Fans are fiercely loyal to each of the mom’s, with the show’s Facebook page blowing up with discussion about the changes.  Some that spoke up admit this season was a little bland, with each settling into their new roles as caregiver, but are adamant that they want to keep up with the lives of little Bentley, Carly, Sophia, and Leah.

MTV or Freeman need to clarify their intentions with this so-called sequel series, or tell us when the real Teen Moms will again be seen on Tuesday nights- or “Teen Mom 2” may suffer, and ultimately kill the cash-cow.

Lowell, Bookout, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Portwood & Abraham on set of the "Teen Mom" reunion special