'Factor' Producer Jesse Watters Confronts Florida Judge Who Released Convicted Sex Predator

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Investigation" segment tonight: another dubious judge releases a dangerous man. Forty-eight-year-old Richard Chotiner was convicted of sexually molesting a mentally disabled person, a man with a mental capacity of a 10-year-old. Chotiner is sentenced to 15 years in a Florida prison, but the judge, J. Rogers Padgett, let him out on bail pending appeal, despite objections from the prosecutor and just about everybody else.

"Factor" producer Jesse Watters spoke to the victim and members of the community:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had no right to let him go. That judge needs to be punished, too. He let him go back in August. And it wasn't right either. I just — am so upset about that when it happened. It was a shock when he did it again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Horrified. I wish I had the judge here so I could let him know how I feel. But I will look into it, and they'll hear from me. They really will. As I'm sure they'll hear from Bill O'Reilly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually think that it's a travesty, especially with kids running around in the neighborhood.


O'REILLY: Now, we called Judge Padgett to get his side of the story. He refused to give it to us, so Jesse paid him a visit.

Click here to watch the confrontation!


JESSE WATTERS, "FACTOR" PRODUCER: Hey, Judge, Jesse Waters with FOX News. How are you?


WATTERS: You had a sex offender that was convicted of two counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a mentally disabled person and you gave him bail? How do you justify that?

PADGETT: I don't have to justify it to you now. I mean, it was all handled in open court. If you want to look at the record, you can look at the record.

WATTERS: Give me a break, Judge. We looked at the record. You owe us an explanation here. Your salary is paid for by the taxpayers. Judge, even the defense attorney thought this was outrageous. Judge, with all due respect you have an obligation to talk to us here. You're a public official.

PADGETT: I'm going to hurt you if, you know, you don't move your leg.

WATTERS: The victim is scared. You owe that family an apology.


O'REILLY: So a word of advice to everybody in Hillsboro County, Florida: Be careful. This guy is out there.

With us now is Jesse Watters. This judge has a history of being soft on sex offenders. In a very high-profile case, the teacher Debra Lafave, right, convicted of molesting a student, young boy. This judge cut her sentence in half, right?

WATTERS: She was on house arrest, and he cut the house arrest in half. And this was only two months after she had been caught violating her probation by having intimate conversations with a teenager that she was working with at a diner. So obviously this guy's got some predilection to being soft on sex offenders.

O'REILLY: When you talk to the victim, he came across there as being fairly articulate. I mean, he told us how he felt about it. But they say his mental state is of a 10-year-old boy? Is that...

WATTERS: Yes, and you can tell just by looking in his eyes. The guy's not all there, and that was why he was able to be preyed upon by this vicious sex offender. And you'd think a 23-year-old or someone of that age — and he's about 6'2" — would fight this guy off, punch him in the face and just scram. But this guy doesn't have a bad bone in his body. That's why it's so sad. I actually, I asked him, "If you ever saw this guy in the neighborhood, what would you do?" He said, "I'd run away as fast as I can and call the police."

O'REILLY: Well, he only lives two miles from the guy. This guy — the predator, convicted criminal. Again, convicted. And the judge didn't have to let him out on bail. Everybody, including the defense attorney, said no, right?


O'REILLY: They said, "No, put him away like Bernie Madoff and let him appeal." But you know, he's dangerous. Two miles he lives from the victim, right?

WATTERS: Two and a half miles from the victim. And not only that: He doesn't have any electronic monitoring device. And the guy's — there's — neighbors are freaking out because there's kids everywhere. There's a baseball diamond. There's an elementary school. One person said that they put all the toys in the backyard so they could watch the kid play in the backyard.

O'REILLY: And I understand the guy was seen at the local pool?

WATTERS: Yes. He was sun bathing at the local pool.

O'REILLY: This is the convicted sex offender?

WATTERS: Yes. All lathered up, SPF 15, disgusting, and people are scared because kids, grandkids are out there. It's a scary situation.

O'REILLY: You also talked to the mother of the victim, right? And she has gotten involved with this. And there's going to be a rally, I understand, on Friday in the Tampa area?

WATTERS: Yes, there's going to be a rally outside of the courthouse on Friday. And what they want to just make sure this judge never practices ever again.

O'REILLY: Yes, right.

WATTERS: And he is retired, but they want to make sure this guy gets railroaded out of town.

O'REILLY: But you know, in Florida, Jesse, when you're a retired judge, you get called back all the time, as this man did for this case.


O'REILLY: Because, you know, some judge is on vacation or whatever, and they call these guys back. This guy's very arrogant to me. We gave him more than enough time to explain why he made this decision. He hasn't explained it at all to anybody, so I mean, he's very arrogant.

Now, the mom, she wants to basically have the state rule this judge out, right? No way. But the judge could revoke the guy's bail and he could send him back?

WATTERS: Yes. The judge still has discretion. That's the saddest part about it. And I don't know what we can do legally. You'll have to talk to the "Is It Legal?" ladies about it. But they want this guy in prison locked up where he should be, not out on the streets, you know.

O'REILLY: Right, roaming around.


O'REILLY: All right, Jesse, another good job. And good job yesterday with the — if you didn't see "The Factor" last night, we had these far-left loons hurting the rape victim, Alexa, and her family. And we should have a follow-up on that later this week. That was a good job, and you were very respectful to the woman. The woman, you know, she's trying to paint herself as a victim, you know, that you were yelling at her.

WATTERS: Right, right.

O'REILLY: And the tape shows quite the opposite. But we will continue on that story as well. Thanks, Jesse.

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