University of Florida quarterback Jalen Kitna was charged Wednesday with distributing child exploitation material, accused of sharing images of sexual abuse on the messaging platform Discord, authorities said.
Kitna, 19, faces two counts of the crime and three counts of possession of child pornography, Gainesville police said in a statement.
The school’s University Athletic Association said Kitna, a freshman, was suspended indefinitely from its football program.
“We are shocked and saddened to hear of the news involving Jalen Kitna,” the association said. “These are extremely serious charges and the University of Florida and the UAA have zero tolerance for such behavior.”
A university spokesman said the school had no further comment.
Kitna is the son of former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna, now the head football coach at Burleson High School in Texas. Jon Kitna didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alerted local authorities Wednesday that someone shared an image depicting child abuse on Discord, the police department said.
Investigators linked the images to a home in Gainesville and found the two images were shared by an account that most likely belonged to Kitna, the department said.
In an interview with police, Kitna said he believed the pictures were legal because he found them online, the police department said. He told authorities he shouldn’t have shared them based on the reaction of the user he shared them with, it said.
Kitna said his account was deactivated for violating the platform’s terms of service, police said.
A preliminary analysis of Kitna’s devices found three other images depicting child sexual abuse, according to the police department.
In a statement, a Discord spokesperson said the company has a “zero-tolerance policy for child sexual abuse, which does not have a place on our platform or anywhere in society. We work relentlessly to find and remove this abhorrent content and take action including banning the users responsible and engaging with the proper authorities.”
Kitna made his first appearance in court Thursday, according to records with the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court in Alachua County, and his attorney, Ron Kozlowski.
Records showed Kitna’s bond was set at $80,000, and Judge Meshon T. Rawls ordered that Kitna have no unsupervised contact with minors younger than 18 and no internet access.
Kozlowski stressed Thursday afternoon that charges have not been formalized by the state attorney’s office against his client. Kozlowski said he was unsure if Kitna remained jailed, but he expected bond would be posted.
Kitna’s father was in court earlier Thursday along with a “pastor from Gainesville that Jalen works with,” Kozlowski said.
He declined to discuss allegations against his client, but said the focus is on supporting Kitna.
“He’s got people who care about him. People who love him. And people who support him. That’s what we’re focused on,” Kozlowski said.
According to Kitna’s arrest report provided by the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court, when police spoke to him Wednesday, he acknowledged he’s been on Discord servers that “discuss, solicit, and distribute child sexual abuse material, but he tries to shy away from it.”
The report added, “The defendant stated he has been struggling with controlling his interests (age-appropriate material, incest, etc).”
Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.
Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.