- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A judge vilified as soft on crime by Web loggers, TV commentators and politicians for giving a child molester just 60 days in jail increased the sentence yesterday to three to 10 years behind bars.

Vermont District Judge Edward Cashman said he decided to impose the longer sentence because state officials reversed course and agreed to provide sex-offender treatment to Mark Hulett in prison.

When the judge imposed the original sentence on Jan. 4, Hulett had been ruled ineligible for treatment until he got out of prison. Judge Cashman said the lighter sentence was the only way to ensure that Hulett got prompt treatment.

Hulett, 34, pleaded guilty to charges that he had sexual contact with a girl during a four-year period, beginning when she was 6.

After handing out the original sentence, Judge Cashman was attacked by commentators on TV and the Internet. On Fox News, Bill O’Reilly told viewers as video of Judge Cashman rolled, “You may be looking at the worst judge in the USA.”

Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas called on the judge to resign, and several lawmakers demanded his impeachment.

A Zogby International poll taken after the first sentence was imposed showed that 92 percent of American voters opposed it.

In his latest order, Judge Cashman remained firm in his belief that sentences must be concerned with more than just punishment.

“The court agrees a punitive response — punishment — is a valuable and necessary component of society’s response to criminal conduct,” he said. “It is a tool that the court has routinely used for the past 24 years on the trial bench. As stated during the sentencing hearing, however, punishment is not enough of a response in some cases.”

The governor said he considered the new sentence still too lenient.

“It’s 18 times 60 days, so it’s certainly an improvement,” Mr. Douglas said. “Personally I think it’s inadequate for a crime of that magnitude, but it is certainly better than the first decision.”

Attorney General William Sorrell said he had wished for more than three years “as a message to other would-be offenders.” But he praised the judge for being “big enough to change course.”

Hulett will have to serve at least three years behind bars. Once he gets out, he will spend the rest of his life on probation or parole.

“I think it is fair,” said his lawyer, Mark Kaplan. “I think it makes sense under the circumstances.”

The families of Hulett and the victim left the courtroom without comment.

State Rep. Peg Flory, the House Republican leader, said it is too early to say whether Republicans will drop their resolution calling on the judge to resign.

“I want to read what the decision is before I say,” she said.

The Corrections Department initially decided not to offer Hulett treatment behind bars because it concluded that he was unlikely to commit another sex offense. After the furor, however, Vermont’s human services secretary ordered the department to change its policy to allow low-risk sex offenders to receive treatment in prison.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide