Sex Offender Sentence Criticized - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sex Offender Sentence Criticized

Burlington, Vermont -- January 5, 2006

Vermont Judge Edward Cashman is coming under fire for handing out a light sentence to a child rapist.

The judge says did it because he no longer believes in punishment and he wants to speed the rapist's entry into a rehabilitation program.

Judge Cashman's short sentence for an admitted child molester triggered immediate public and political reaction with some lawmakers saying he should leave the bench.

Judge Edward Cashman's light sentence was the talk of the town. Wednesday he sentenced child rapist Mark Hulett to 60 days in jail. Hulett admitted he raped a little girl countless times when she was between 7 and 10 years old.

Prosecutors said Hulett deserved at least 8 years in prison in part as punishment.

But Judge Cashman said the 60-day sentence guaranteed that Hulett would get into sex offender rehabilitation quickly or face a possible life sentence. He said he had no choice because the Corrections Department classified Hulett as a low risk offender meaning he can't get treatment until he's out of jail.

And more importantly the judge announced that after 25 years on the bench, he no longer believes in punishment.

Almost everyone we spoke with in Burlington on Thursday had heard about the case, but we found no one who liked it.

"We were actually talking about it at work this morning. It just does not fee as if justice was done. Seems like a really serious crime with a pretty small consequence," said Joan Robinson of Burlington.

"I was dismayed to see that someone who had committed such a serious crime against a young child would be given less of a prison sentence than for instance someone who got a second-term DWI," said Paul Poss of South Burlington.

"It just seems really sad to me that was the judge's decision. And I hope that other judges look at that decision and see it as the wrong decision,"explained Robyn MaGuire of Winooski.

It's absolutely amazing based on what's going on in the United States with sex offenders, registry, non-registry, and so forth, that somebody could get a 60-day sentence and get off that easily. It just seems impossible to me that a 60-day sentence is logical," said Bill Polk of Panton.

Now the judge's ruling apparently sparked some political fires at the statehouse. Republican lawmakers have scheduled a press conference for tomorrow to call for mandatory minimum sentences. That's a direct response to Judge Cashman's ruling.

On the other hand, several defense lawyers toldChannel 3 the judge's decision was "fair", "brilliant" and "beautifully reasoned."

Some Republicans have started calls for Cashman's removal from the bench.

But they may have to until Judge Cashman's six-year retention hearings in March 2007. Legal experts say it is highly unlikely his sentencing decision would qualify as an impeachable offense. And as for any Judicial Conduct Board disciplinary action, the judge's behavior would have to be unethical, not just unpopular, to get him in trouble.

Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News

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