Judge in Same-Sex Relationship Trial in Vero Beach Should Step Down: Attorney

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The attorney for a young Florida woman who was charged with a felony for having sexual contact with her 14-year-old girlfriend has filed a motion asking the judge to remove himself from the case.

    Circuit Judge Robert Pegg chose September as a trial date for 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt, who was charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a child 12 to 16 in February.

    In a motion filed Monday, Hunt's attorney, Julia Graves, said she was never notified of the trial date and alleged that Pegg moved the case ahead of 200 other pending criminal cases because he is biased against Hunt, who is gay. A similar case Pegg handled involving a male defendant and female victim took 19 months to conclude, Graves said in her motion.

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    The judge did not immediately respond to a telephone message Tuesday seeking comment.

    Hunt's story received international media attention and prompted gay rights advocates to say she is being unfairly targeted for what would be considered a common romance if she was not gay. They have argued 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's family has alleged that the day before she 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.

    State Attorney Bruce Colton, however, said he would have brought charges regardless of the defendant's sexual preference because Hunt violated a law that prohibits adults from having sexual contact with underage children.

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    Prosecutors have offered Hunt a plea deal that would allow her to avoid registering as a sex offender if she pleads guilty to lesser charges of child abuse. He said he would recommend two years of house arrest followed by one year of probation if she takes the deal.

    But the Hunt family has said they would accept a plea deal only if the charges are dropped to a misdemeanor.

    The alleged victim is identified only by her initials in court documents, and her parents have not been publicly identified. The AP does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes.

    Colton said the victim's family is not pushing for prison but wants Hunt to be held responsible in some way.