Kyle (Ky) Peterson grew up in a small South Georgia farming town. His down to earth nature comes from the love of his Grandma Molly and the support of his Mom. Ky loves to stay busy. Even as a child, Ky worked hard to help his family and in his free time, he volunteered at a local assisted living home, and the American Red Cross.
When Ky turned 17, hard times hit the family, and he was forced to drop out of school; getting a job to help support his 3 younger siblings. Ky has a vibrant personality and a glowing smile that make it easy to be his friend. Ky is an uncommonly kind person, with a loving and courageous nature.
On October 28th, 2011, the life that Ky Peterson knew came to an end. Ky and his younger brothers (they were 14 and 16) took a walk to a neighborhood convenience store and game room.
After making his purchase, Ky waited outside the store for his brothers. While waiting, Ky was approached by a man who made sexual advances toward him. When Ky asked the man to leave him alone, the man then walked away, uttering derogatory insults as he got in his vehicle. Ky then went into the store and told his brothers that he was walking home, leaving them to follow behind him.
As Ky passed the abandoned trailer next door to his home, the man came up behind him and hit Ky over the head, knocking him unconscious. The man then dragged Ky into the abandoned trailer and began assaulting him. At some point during the attack, Ky regained consciousness and began fighting and yelling for help. His brothers were walking home near the trailer and ran to help Ky. The 2 boys pulled at the man to get him off of Ky, and while Ky struggled against the attacker, he grabbed a gun he carried for protection and shot the man 1 time.
With Ky injured and in shock, boys panicked (being young, black men from a small town in south Georgia) and attempted to cover up the killing. The next day, police came and questioned the boys, Ky told them about the attack. The police took them to the station and threatened to charge the boys (age 14 & 16) with armed robbery and 1st degree murder. They interrogated the boys for over 10 hours, alone, without a child advocate or permission from their mother.
When it became apparent that Ky was suffering from injuries, the police took him to The Lily Pad Center, where he was examined and a rape kit was done. The nurse who performed the examination confirmed that Ky had been brutally raped and sodomized, yet she felt the need to point out that Ky “did not act like a rape victim” .
After he was examined, the police returned Ky to the Sumter County jail where he would face murder charges. At his 1st appearance, he pleaded Not Guilty with a Sumter County Public Defender. After that, he was returned to the county jail where he sat for a year with no word from a single person about his case.
Ky should have seen his public defender within 45 days of his arrest. No one from the county interviewed him about his case or his defense. Once the county realized that Ky was a victim they were forced to reduce the charges. A year after his attack, another public defender appeared and offered Ky a plea “bargain” of 30 years for Involuntary Manslaughter, which has a 10 year maximum in Georgia.
Ky refused. They made a second offer of 20 years, with 15 to serve and threatened him with the death penalty if he went to trial. Under heavy mental health medication and having no education in Georgia self defense laws, Ky accepted the deal. They did not. Rather than changing the time to match the documented “Involuntary” plea that Ky accepted, the county sited a “clerical error” and changed his charge to Voluntary Manslaughter matching the 20 year sentence Ky was originally given. It is this sentence, along with the many other negligent actions of Sumter County, which leads us to believe that Ky has suffered tremendous injustices because of racial, gender, and sexual biases.
Upon arriving in prison, Ky has suffered continuous dehumanizing treatment from Pulaski State Prison’s staff and officers. He has spent the last 5 years fighting for his rights to hormone therapy, and trans medical care inside prison walls.
Today, Ky is planning for his future. He hopes to go to college and become a motivational speaker. Ky and his support team have created Freedom Overground, whose focus has now turned to advocating for the health care and safety of transgender inmates. He often buys books and requests information that he uses to help educate other incarcerated trans people. His dedication and passion for Human Rights and Transgender Equality ensures that he will make a difference in many people’s lives. Ky is just one of many transgender people who have been caught up in the U.S.Legal System. Check out Ky’s Blog to find out what reality is for a black trans man in a South Georgia Prison.