As reported yesterday by Outkick, former Florida Gators QB Jalen Kitna entered into a plea. He pled to two counts of disorderly conduct with adjudication withheld meaning that Mr. Kitna wasn’t convicted of those offenses. He was sentenced to six months of probation. It is a quite stunning change of events as back in December Mr. Kitna was arrested on five counts of child pornography. Two of the child pornography charges were 2nd-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison and three charges were third-degree felonies punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Disorderly conduct, however, is a 2nd-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail. In previous articles, I have spoken extensively about my experiences as a former felony prosecutor and my current experiences as a criminal defense attorney. In my experiences, I have NEVER heard of a child pornography case being amended to disorderly conduct. That is because child pornography cases carry with them high exposure (meaning Judges routinely give significant prison sentences). How is that plea deal possible and why? Here are some possible reasons.
Speedy Trial Issues
We hear often in the practice of law about speedy trial. However, what is speedy trial in Florida? In the State of Florida, a misdemeanor case must be formally filed and brought to trial within 90 days of an arrest, and a felony case must be filed and brought to trial within 175 days of an arrest. That means the State Attorney’s Office must formally charge a defendant with a felony via indictment (if it is a 1st-degree murder charge) or Information (every other felony charge) within 175 days of the cuffs being put on a defendant. It appears that Jalen Kitna was arrested on December 1, 2022, as evidenced on the Alachua County Clerk’s Website. He was brought to First Appearances shortly thereafter (you have the right in Florida to be brought in front of a Judge within 24 hours of your arrest). As such, an information would need to be filed within 175 days of December 1, 2022. 175 days from that December date would have been May 25, 2023. A search of the clerk’s website turned up that no information was ever filed until today July 5, 2023, and that was for disorderly conduct. “NO ACTION” is the description on the clerk’s website meaning that the child pornography case was never formally filed. An arrest is not sufficient to bring the case to trial. A formal charging document (usually an information) must also be filed. As such, the State was arguably barred from formally charging Jalen Kitna with child pornography. I also see that there was a “Waiver of Speedy Trial” on February 27, 2023. Why would you waive speedy trial when there hasn’t even been an information filed? That doesn’t make much sense.
I also considered the fact that there were potential issues with the chain of evidence (how the police came to acquire the evidence against Kitna) opening up the possibility of a motion to suppress. However, no motions were ever filed. There wasn’t even a case management, which is common practice after an arrest. An information was just filed yesterday on the date of the plea and that was to only misdemeanors. Again, that doesn’t make sense either.
Common Practice in Alachua County
Finally, I considered that not filing the information until right before the plea was just common practice in Alachua County. However, I found another Defendant by the name of Jantzen Lee Weaver who was recently formally charged with child pornography. His case was formally filed on after only 15 days. The case number is 2023CF1549. Additionally, unlike Kitna, that Defendant is still in custody. Also, the clerk’s website has that case labeled as “Filed”. My question is: How does someone with child pornography charges exceptionally get less than a slap on the wrist while similar defendants are facing lengthy prison sentences with formal charges? Why weren’t the child pornography charges ever filed in Jalen Kitna’s case? My opinion is that there was an under-the-table agreement in this case. The Defendant keeps his nose clean, and the State Attorney’s Office won’t formally file these charges. He can plead to misdemeanors. Additionally, he didn’t even plead as charged. Why do you think he didn’t? Even if he got a Withhold, he wouldn’t be able to seal his Florida as child pornography charges as ones that you cannot seal.
Darryl Lloyd, Chief Investigator of the State Attorney’s Office stated to the Gainesville Sun, “It’s not abnormal for a 19-year-old to look at images of a 16-year-old or a 15-year-old.” Mr. Weaver, like Mr. Kitna, is also relatively young (Mr. Weaver just turned 22). However, Mr. Weaver is very likely looking at a very lengthy prison sentence while Mr. Kitna wasn't even convicted on two misdemeanors.
The final question is why? How is all this possible? This kind of plea deal isn’t a thing. The case doesn’t appear to have suppression grounds. He pled to charges that aren’t even lesser included offenses. My opinion is that he was given that kind of plea deal because he is a Florida Gator, and his father is a former NFL Quarterback. If that is true, as a criminal defense attorney who represents countless indigent clients, I am truly disgusted. That should not be our criminal justice system.
Matthew F. Tympanick, Esq. is the Founder/Principal of Tympanick Law, P.A., located in Sarasota, Florida where he focuses his practice on Criminal Defense, Personal Injury Law, and Sports Law. Arrested or Injured? Don’t Panic…Call Tympanick! 1(888)NOPANIC. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts School of Law where he served as a Public Interest Fellow and a Staff Editor on the UMass Law Review. He has appeared nationally on television, radio, and podcasts discussing criminal cases specifically sports criminal cases. He was previously a felony prosecutor where he prosecuted thousands of misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. He also has tried over 40 jury and non-jury cases. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @TympanickLaw.