(CBS/AP) SEBASTIAN, Fla. - The internet activist group Anonymous claims "intolerance" is behind the case of Kaitlyn Hunt, an 18-year-old Florida high school student who was arrested and charged over a same-sex relationship with an underage classmate, according to a letter made public by the group.
Hunt has been expelled from Sebastian River High School in Sebastian, Fla. and was charged in February with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years of age as a result her relationship with a 14-year-old girl.
Since her arrest, the case has garnered national attention for what some say is a gay rights issue. Gay rights advocates, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, argue that older high schoolers dating their younger counterparts is an innocuous, everyday occurrence that is not prosecuted - regardless of sexual orientation - and not a crime on par with predatory sex offenses.
Hunt played on the basketball team with her younger girlfriend and shared the same circle of friends, said Hunt's mother, Kelley Hunt Smith. The two had a consenting relationship that began soon after Kaitlyn Hunt turned 18, and Hunt Smith said she assumed the younger girl's parents knew that.
The day before Hunt was arrested, police and the younger girl's parents secretly recorded a phone conversation in which the two girls discussed kissing in the school bathroom, said Hunt's father, Steve Hunt.
"It's horrible. For my daughter's sexual preferences, she's getting two felony charges. It could possibly ruin her future," Steve Hunt told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday.
In the letter released by Anonymous, the group claims the Indian River County State Attorney's Office has "lost perspective" and vows to put together a petition with 200,000 signatures on it calling for the resignation of the officials involved.
"The truth is, Kaitlyn Hunt is a bright young girl who was involved in a consensual, same-sex relationship while both she and her partner were minors. She has a big future ahead of her and there are people, thousands of people in fact, that have no intention of allowing you to ruin it with your rotten selective enforcement."
The group also cites alleged intolerance by the younger girl's parents. Kaitlyn's mother had previously posted on a Facebook page, entitled "Free Kate," that the girlfriend's parents "conspired with police to entrap Kaitlyn" because they disapproved of the relationship.
Kaitlyn's father has also publically claimed that the girlfriend's parents went to police because they blamed Kaitlyn for their child's homosexuality.
Hunt has until Friday to accept a plea deal offered by prosecutors that would allow her to avoid registering as a sex offender if she pleads guilty to lesser charges of child abuse. State Attorney Bruce Colton said he would recommend two years of house arrest followed by one year probation if she takes the deal.
If she is found guilty, it's also possible that Hunt could apply to not have to register as a sex offender under a "Romeo and Juliet" law because the girls were no more than four years apart in age, Colton said.
Colton said the victim's family is not pushing for prison but wants Kaitlyn Hunt to be held responsible in some way. However, the Hunt family said they would accept a plea deal only if the charges are dropped to a misdemeanor.
"One of the reasons this case has gotten people's attention is because it's being publicized as a person being persecuted because she's gay, and that has nothing to do with the case, nothing to do with the law, nothing to do with the sheriff's office filing the charges," Colton said. He said the law is designed to protect younger children from older children who might be more aggressive in starting a relationship.
"The law doesn't make any differentiation. It doesn't matter if it's two girls or two boys, or an older boy and a younger girl or an older girl and a younger boy. Whatever the combination, it doesn't matter."
Hunt's family said she has been demonized by some, and they disabled her personal Facebook account to protect her from negative comments. At school in February, her 17-year-old sister spent a half-hour cleaning a mirror where someone had written a slur against women and other words including "rapist" and "disgusting," Steve Hunt said.
In the meantime, Kaitlyn Hunt has been attending an alternative school since her expulsion and will be allowed to walk with her class at graduation in June. Her mother said she was expelled by the school board even though a judge ruled she could stay.