EDITORIAL: Obama nominee’s sympathy for sexual sadists

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President Obama’s judicial nominees are getting more dangerous with each White House announcement.

If you don’t believe us, consider one judge’s opinion that the “sexual sadism” of a multiple rapist-murderer was “clearly a mitigating factor” that argued against executing the murderer and perhaps even against convicting him in the first place. Or that a type of Megan’s Law sex-offender registry should be overturned because it “stigmatizes nondangerous registrants.” Even a child-porn convict should serve a sentence less than half as long as official guidelines suggest if his mental and emotional condition is fragile.

U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny of Connecticut, appointed by President Clinton, thinks all of this crazy nonsense and has so ruled or argued. Yet on Feb. 24, Mr. Obama nominated Judge Chatigny for promotion to a seat on the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Senate Judiciary Committee rushed to schedule his nomination hearing for March 10 before Republican objections delayed it.

Let’s take these subjects in reverse order. First, as to the Senate Democrats’ original plans to rush into a hearing just two weeks after the nomination was made: This would be unwise for any nominee, and it’s especially outrageous for one so controversial. Judiciary Committee Republicans say the average wait for a hearing for President George W. Bush’s appeals court nominees was 135 days - nearly 10 times as long.

Judge Chatigny’s strange take on sex offenders has shadowed his time on the bench. In the 2007 child-porn case, the judge gave the lenient sentence even though prosecutors found “multiple images and videos” on the defendant’s computer. In the case involving Connecticut’s version of Megan’s Law, Judge Chatigny relied not on the actual words of the “sex-offender registry” warning, but on the “implied allegation” that everybody listed was dangerous in order to rule that the law somehow violated the offender’s constitutional rights. So wrongheaded was Judge Chatigny’s ruling that the U.S. Supreme Court eventually reversed it, not by a split vote, but unanimously.

The worst case, though, was that of serial murderer Michael Ross, who abducted, sexually tortured and then killed women or girls ages 25, 23, 19, 16, 17 (two that age) and 14 (two victims). Shortly before Ross was to be executed with his own acquiescence in the punishment, Judge Chatigny held a phone conference, during which he berated Ross’ attorney for failing to appeal the death penalty. The judge even threatened, “I’ll have your law license” if the lawyer failed in this supposed duty.

The judge said he had been convinced that “sexual sadism” was a mental disorder that made Ross as much victim as criminal. Said the judge about Ross: “He’s at Cornell, he had this classmate, this petite Asian girl who is sweet, and he likes her, and he winds up killing her because he has this affliction, this terrible disease … this awful, uncontrollable impulse to sexually brutalize this person he liked and then kill her. … Michael Ross may be the least culpable, the least, of the people on death row.”

The Supreme Court eventually overruled Judge Chatigny on the Ross case, too, and Ross finally was put to death. As for the judge’s nomination for a federal appeals court, Ross’ eight victims have no comment.

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