Vermont Judge Blasted for Short Sex-Offender Sentence to Retire

A judge who sparked outrage when he sentenced a sex offender to two months in jail said Friday he will retire.

Vermont District Court Judge Edward Cashman didn't mention the case that had made him a target of heated criticism from lawmakers, editorial writers and national cable news commentators.

In January, he imposed the short sentence on Mark Hulett, 34, who had been convicted for repeated sexual assaults on a young girl.

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Cashman, 63, said the short sentence was the best way to get Hulett the sex offender treatment he needed. But he drew fire from Gov. Jim Douglas and others who called him soft on child predators and demanded his resignation.

State corrections officials later changed their policy for treating sex offenders, allowing Hulett to get treatment while in prison and prompting Cashman to increase the sentence to a three-year minimum.

Cashman, who announced his retirement in a letter, could not be reached for comment Friday. He declined an interview request made through a court spokeswoman and did not respond to a telephone message left at his home.

Much of the criticism of the Hulett sentence came from lawmakers, some of whom signed onto a resolution calling for Cashman's resignation. That measure died after other lawmakers said it would entangle lawmakers in judicial decision-making, violating the constitutional separation of powers.

State Sen. Vincent Illuzzi said Friday he would have fought to keep Cashman on the bench had the judge not opted to step down, saying the Hulett sentence had a beneficial result.

"Taking the long view, he brought about much needed, constructive change to the need for an effective sex-offender treatment in the (prisons)," said Illuzzi, who is also the state's attorney in Essex County.

By retiring, Cashman can avoid the six-year legislative review Vermont judges are subject to. His term expires in April, and he told Chief Justice Paul Reiber in a letter that he will step down then.

"My family and I have discussed this issue for some time," Cashman wrote. "Now in my mid-sixties, I must face the reality that I am no longer a young man. The prospect of another six years of the intense effort and attention needed to properly perform this function may exact a cost my family and I are no longer willing to pay."

Cashman was appointed to the bench in 1982.

James Gallagher, president of the Vermont Bar Association, said it was unfortunate that Cashman had to endure the criticism that he did.

"He has always struck me as a thoughtful, deliberative, careful person who was trying to do the right thing," Gallagher said. "It's sad to see someone with 23 years of honorable experience in the judiciary be subjected to so much criticism for a good-faith effort in trying to find the ethical requirements."