Kaitlyn Hunt Is Not the First to Complicate 'Justice'

The former high school cheerleader's pending felony charges for a consensual relationship with a teammate have made LGBT Americans wonder about age-of-consent laws and selective prosecution.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

June 13 2013 4:00 AM ET

That allegedly unfair prosecution is all too familiar to Jackie Lynn Anthony, whose daughter, Paige Johnson (pictured), is serving a three- to five-year sentence in a county jail in Warren, Pa., for charges stemming from a scenario that is eerily similar to Hunt's.

In the spring of 2010, when Johnson was 18, she had a brief consensual physical relationship with another girl on her cheerleading squad. The girl was 14 at the time, and when the relationship turned sour, the younger girl's parents had Johnson arrested and charged with a felony for taking their daughter across state lines, after the team traveled to another state for a cheerleading competition. Unlike Hunt, though, Johnson accepted the state's plea deal and was slapped with two misdemeanor counts of corruption of a minor. The victim’s family could not be reached for comment. 

Anthony, who says she has spoken to the Hunt family on several occasions, believes state prosecutors targeted her daughter, claiming the officer who arrested Johnson was also the victim's soccer coach. More importantly, though, Anthony contends that accepting the plea deal prevented her daughter from telling her side of the story to a judge and correcting allegations Anthony says were false. 

"You have no right to fight anything once you've pled guilty," says Anthony. "The [court] only hears the other side."

Because of this, Anthony has been vocal in encouraging the Hunt family to reject the plea deal, a relatively uncommon tack in age-of-consent cases. And while she recognizes similarities between her daughter's case and Hunt's, she's also taken note of the overwhelming social media support for Hunt — which she says was nowhere to be found when her daughter was facing similar charges. 

"I don't think society as a whole was ready to face this issue," says Anthony. "And I'm not sure that the LGBT community and Lambda Legal and the ACLU, I'm not sure they wanted to jump on that bandwagon four years ago."

Anthony says she's reached out to numerous organizations seeking representation for her daughter, who has thus far served 15 months in jail. After Johnson initially served 11 months and successfully compled more than a year on probation, a judge revoked her probation and ordered her to start her time over after police officers searched her personal computer and cell phone and found photos of Johnson and her 17-year-old best friend that they contended were inappropriate. Anthony says the photos, where Johnson and her friend were sticking their tongues out at the camera, were nothing more than typical teenage horseplay, but officers alleged that the images might constitute child pornography, and qualified as Johnson's "failure to follow a directive," landing her back in jail. 

"[Paige] didn't stand a chance," says Anthony. "If I had money and I could have afforded a $5,000 lawyer, we wouldn't be here talking right now. I can guarantee it. Because everything they did was wrong and illegal, and it violated her rights."

But despite the legal quagmire Johnson finds herself in, her mother says Johnson wants her story to be heard, especially in light of the publicity Hunt's case is attracting. 

"She said, 'Mom, I don't care what people call me,'" says Anthony. "The social issues have changed, and the views on some of this have changed now. More states are allowing gay marriage ... or at least gay relationships. Someone has to stand up and say, 'Hey, you can't do this. It's wrong.'"

"You've got to put it out there and let people know," Anthony says her daughter recently told her. "You've got to let [Hunt's] parents know. Please don't take the plea. Give her a chance in front of a jury."

Tags: Youth

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