Romney Calls for Judge Who Released Killer to Resign, as Issue Becomes Political Fodder

Mitt Romney on Saturday personally called for the resignation of a Massachusetts judge who was one of his political nominees when he was governor, after the judge ordered the release of a violent criminal who once threatened to kill Romney and is now being held in the murders of a newlywed Washington state couple.

The GOP presidential candidate earlier condemned the judge's decision, even though he would not apologize for the actions of Superior Court Judge Kathe M. Tuttman, who overruled a lower court ruling and released convicted killer Daniel Tavares Jr. in July, rejecting prosecutors' request to set his bail at $50,000 after he was arrested on assault charges.

Romney's campaign had expressed his wishes for Tuttman to step down Friday, but Romney's comments Saturday while campaigning in Derry, N.H., marked the first time he personally and publicly stated his expectations.

"The judge showed an inexplicable lack of good judgment in a hearing that decided to put someone on the street who had not only in the past been convicted of manslaughter, but had threatened the lives of other individuals and was a flight risk," Romney said. "And I think on that basis that despite her record of being a law-and-order prosecutor, her lack of judgment suggested a need to resign from that position."

Romney called for the resignation as at least one of his Republican rivals used the incident to criticize his record.

"The governor is going to have to explain his appointment and the judge is going to have to explain her decision, but it's not an isolated situation," GOP frontrunner Rudy Giuliani said. "Gov. Romney did not have a good record in dealing with violent crime.

"He had an increase in murder and violent crime while he was governor," Giuliani said. "So it's not so much the isolated situation which he and the judge will have to explain — he's kind of thrown her under the bus, so it's hard to know how this is all going to come out. But the reality is, he did not have a record of reducing violent crime."

When Tuttman ordered the release, Tavares had already served 16 years for killing his mother with a carving knife. He had just been released in June before he was rearrested on the assault charges.

Tavares was supposed to continue to see his probation officer, but he reportedly skipped his next court date and left the state.

Four months later, Tavares faces new murder charges in the killing of a Graham, Wash., couple. Tavares fled to Washington to live with a woman he met while in prison. He was arrested on Monday for allegedly shooting to death Brian Mauck, 30, and Beverly Mauck, 28, who lived near him.

The Boston Herald originally reported Thursday that Tavares also threatened to kill Romney and other Massachusetts public officials when he was released from prison. He made the threats in February 2006.

Click here to read the report in The Boston Herald.

In Washington state, the father of the newly-married bride who police say was murdered by Tavares wants Romney held accountable for the judge whose decision set Tavares free.

“He was the governor — he picked this judge,” Beverly Mauck’s father, Darrel Slater, 51, told the Herald. “He should be answering for what happened.”

But Romney spokesman Kevin Madden on Friday downplayed the role the former governor had in the nominating process, and said Tuttman was not a political, personal or judicial friend or associate of Romney's.

"Better than apologizing is condemning the decision to give bail," Madden said. "All signs point to a system-wide breakdown. What we need now is to make sure the system doesn't break down again."

Tuttman's appointment came to Romney from the Massachusetts executive judicial appointment board. Tuttman, 55, is a former Essex prosecutor who headed the family crimes and sexual assault unit before her appointment to the bench in 2006.

Romney met with Tuttman and reviewed her qualifications, and then forwarded Tuttman's nomination with his endorsement to the commonwealth's Governor's Council, an eight-member body elected to screen and confirm a variety of gubernatorial appointees, including judicial appointees. The council approved Tuttman's nomination.

Madden said this multi-step process of judicial appointment shows this case is not similar to the weekend prison furlough program former presidential candidate and Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis maintained in Massachusetts.

Under this program, convicted murderer Willie Horton was given a furlough in 1986, and in 1987 he raped and murdered a Maryland woman and her fiancé. Dukakis defended the furlough program and, unlike Romney, opposed the death penalty. The issue proved damaging to Dukakis in the 1988 general election campaign against GOP nominee George Herbert Walker Bush.

Asked Saturday if he was afraid the press attention on Tuttman would create a similar situation, Romney said simply, "No, not really."

FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.