After a brief career as backup Florida Gators quarterback, Jalen Kitna faces team dismissal, a UF-campus ban and potential jail time after being arrested on child pornography charges.
Just months before his first season playing as a redshirt freshman, Kitna allegedly joined and exchanged child pornography through online social media, according to an arrest report.
Kitna’s now trespassed from UF campus — barred from entering any UF properties for the next three years. Kitna was also removed from the football team’s roster Dec. 2, indicating his dismissal from the program.
His $80,000 bond was paid Dec. 2, and he’ll be spending his pre-trial time at his family home in Texas, according to court records. His internet access will also be monitored by Alachua County.
The arrest came as a surprise to some who know him.
Anthony Gonzales, a 20-year-old University of Arizona student who played football with Kitna in high school, said he was well-liked, courteous and very religious. Kitna’s father, former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jon Kitna, was also very down-to-earth.
“He was liked by everybody,” Gonzales said, “He was one of those kids that’s just super polite.”
Kitna appeared in court Dec. 1 wearing a green suicide prevention gown after being put into custody the day prior.
Darry Lloyd, state attorney spokesperson, said Kitna could face a minimum of five years per sentence — though details of the case can make sentencing vary widely, he added.
“We’re looking at the evidence as it’s presented to us by Gainesville police,” Lloyd said.
Law enforcement began investigating Kitna after his account was reported in June for sending child pornography over the online instant messaging service Discord, according to an arrest report.
The Gainesville Police Department took on the case July 8, several months before his arrest Nov. 30. The investigation took months because GPD only has one Internet Crimes Against Children detective; they saw 205 cases this year, GPD spokesperson David Chudzik said.
Images shared in connection with Kitna’s account showed pubescent girls exposing themselves, captioned with “teen age p-–y so young junior.”
GPD couldn’t confirm the ages of the children in the photos, Chudzik said.
Kitna sent two pornographic images to another Discord user, whose name is redacted in the arrest report.
The 19-year-old was arrested at 9:55 a.m. at his apartment Nov. 30 by GPD, according to the arrest report.
Kitna told investigators he recalled having the Discord conversation and believed the photos he sent were legal, the arrest report shows.
He received an email following the conversation that his Discord account was deactivated due to violation of terms of service, according to the arrest report.
There, Kitna admitted to struggling with an addiction to child sexual abuse material, incest and other pornography, according to the affidavit.
He previously joined groups on the private messaging app Kik that discussed and distributed child sexual abuse material along with his current use of Discord, he said, though he “tries to shy away from it,” according to the report.
When his phone was searched, officers recovered three images of child pornography.
Kitna currently is charged with three charges of possession of sexual photos of a child and two charges of promotion of sexual media of a child.
Ron Kozlowski, one of the city attorneys representing Kitna, declined to talk about specifics of the case, but said he and Kitna’s family are prioritizing the 19-year-old’s well-being.
“Our concern at the moment is Jalen and making sure he gets the support he needs,” Kozlowski said.
The arrest isn’t a first for UF football history — prior players have seen criminal charges as minor as traffic violations to charges as grave as murder.
But some football fans felt distinctly disappointed toward Kitna’s allegations.
Finn Hanley, a 20-year-old UF math junior, said Kitna’s child pornography charges shouldn’t reflect the rest of UF football.
“I think he’s a sick man,” Hanley said. “I wouldn’t throw the rest of the football team in with that one.”
Between the initial Discord conversation and Kitna’s arrest, he appeared in four of Florida’s games — Eastern Washington, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Florida State.
Kitna was offered his scholarship Jan. 9, 2020. His recruitment was handled by the Gators’ previous coaching staff led by former head coach Dan Mullen. Kitna also fielded offers from Colorado, Tennessee, Arizona, Boston College, Oregon State, Cornell and Yale.
Kitna never saw the field during his freshman year on the football team and was granted a redshirt — signifying the season didn’t count toward his overall eligibility. Now a redshirt freshman, Kitna saw increased playing time when called upon in relief of the Gators’ starting quarterback Anthony Richardson.
He’s the son of Jon Kitna, who played quarterback in the National Football League for more than a decade.
The state is required to be ready for trial by May 24, 2023, but the actual trial could be further out. As of Thursday afternoon, Kitna’s next hearing hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Contact Aidan Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @aidandisto.
Aidan Bush is a second-year journalism major and the city and county commission reporter for the Alligator. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Citrus County Chronicle. When not writing, he enjoys creating videos, water activities and spending time with his friends.