BURLINGTON, Vt. – A controversial ruling for a sex offender in Vermont was changed Thursday from 60 days to 3 to 10 years after a judge received pressure to extend the punishment.
When Judge Edward Cashman sentenced Mark Hulett, 34, to 60 days in prison for sexually abusing a child, he said he wanted to make sure the man got treatment that would be available while he was behind bars.
Ever since, he's been vilified by television commentators, bloggers and even the governor who say he was too light on the crime.
On Thursday, the case was back in court, and state prosecutors persuaded Cashman to reconsider the sentence. Prosecutor Robert Simpson argued in court papers that a 60-day jail term wasn't nearly enough.
"This court's sentence must consider and include punishment for the defendant's action in repeatedly sexually assaulting this child," Simpson said.
Hulett had pleaded guilty to charges that he had sexual contact with a girl during a four-year period beginning when she was 6.
At his first sentencing, Cashman said the best way to ensure public safety was to get Hulett out of prison so he could receive sex offender treatment. Because the Corrections Department concluded that Hulett wasn't likely to reoffend, he wouldn't be eligible to receive sex-offender treatment until he reached the end of his jail term.
After Cashman announced the sentence, Gov. James Douglas called for the judge to resign and several lawmakers suggested he be impeached. On FOX News, Bill O'Reilly told viewers as video of Cashman rolled: "You may be looking at the worst judge in the USA."
Mark Kaplan, Hulett's lawyer, argued that the sentence, which included a long period of probation and parole, is in line with other sentences given out by Vermont courts. Cashman needs to ignore the public outcry, he said.
"The sentence in this case may not be popular, but the court cannot be swayed by the media or the mob," he wrote in court papers.
Simpson said he didn't know if Cashman plans to rule from the bench or wait and file a written decision at a later date. In a Jan. 12 memorandum, Cashman appeared unswayed, writing: "To change my decision now, however, simply because of some negative sentiment, would be wrong."
Last week, he indicated the public outcry has been difficult.
"It is difficult to endure, in silence, the type of criticism leveled to date," he wrote in another memo.