Judge Edward Cashman
Vermont’s governor says more than 20,000 e-mails, phone calls and letters have poured into his office in response to a state judge’s 60-day sentence for a child rapist who admitted abusing a young girl over a period of four years.
The “overwhelming majority” condemn District Court Judge Edward Cashman‘s light sentence for 34-year-old Mark Hulett, said Jason Gibbs, spokesman for Gov. Jim Douglas, in an interview with WorldNetDaily.
“The outrage that the vast majority of Vermonters have here is shared by fellow countrymen,” said Gibbs, noting the many protests coming from across the nation.
The spokesman said the governor is “appalled” by the decision.
“He certainly is extremely disappointed and disgusted with the sentence itself,” Gibbs said. “What is equally troubling is that the judge no longer believes in punishment. The governor says that if a criminal court judge no longer believes in punishment, he shouldn’t be on the bench.”
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas
As WorldNetDaily reported Jan. 6, Cashman told a packed Burlington courtroom made up mostly of people related to the victim: “The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn’t solve anything. It just corrodes your soul.”
The judge said that when he began 25 years ago, he handed down tough sentences but now believes “it accomplishes nothing of value.”
“It doesn’t make anything better; it costs us a lot of money; we create a lot of expectation, and we feed on anger,” Cashman explained.
The judge said he wanted to ensure Hulett got sex-offender treatment, but under Department of Corrections classification, the convict was considered a low-risk for re-offense, which meant he didn’t qualify for in-prison treatment. Cashman decided then to issue the minimum 60-day sentence and ordered Hulett to complete the treatment when he got out or face a possible life sentence.
This week, however, Human Services Secretary Michael Smith announced an order to reclassify Hulett, making him eligible for in-prison treatment.
Gibbs said this paves the way for Cashman to issue a new sentence. Prosecutors filed a motion based on the new order yesterday and await the judge’s response.
The governor’s spokesman said the issue of rehabilitation should not have been a hindrance to Cashman in the first place.
“He could have picked up the phone and called the governor and made that point,” Gibbs said. “Treatment or lack of treatment is not an excuse not to punish someone for a heinous crime.”
Gibbs said it’s unlikely Cashman can be impeached, because the state’s statute has a “very high standard.”
A judge cannot be removed for a poor decision, he explained, but only for an egregious breach of the law or ethics.
The state’s House of Representatives is considering a non-binding resolution urging Cashman to resign.
Gibbs said the speaker of the House has ordered the resolution to committee, but it’s unclear whether it will come to the floor for a vote.
However, Cashman could be removed in one year when he faces his next retention hearings.
Vermont’s judges are appointed by the governor and must face retention hearings every six years in which their performance is evaluated.
“So if he chooses not to resign now, he will have to face this issue again,” Gibbs said.
The state’s House Judiciary Committee took testimony this week on Hulett’s sentence and planned also to hear from Corrections Department officials. In addition, the panel is considering legislation to require tougher sentences.
Republican state Sen. Wendy Wilton plans to introduce a bill based on “Jessica’s law,” a nationwide initiative for states that includes barring registered sex offenders from living near schools and parks and requiring them to wear satellite tracking devices.
The cornerstone of the measure, Wilton said, is a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence for aggravated sexual assault.
Cashman said in a statement “the negative comments sting.”
“I am aware that the intensity of some public criticism may shorten my judicial career,” he said. “To change my decision now, however, simply because of some negative sentiment, would be wrong.
“I owe it to the judiciary and to my own conscience to maintain a stand that I believe is the best possible option in a very difficult situation,” he said.