Montpelier, Vt. Judge Edward Cashman should be the darling of conservatives: a churchgoer, a former prosecutor, a Vietnam vet and a member of the bench known for his hard-line stands: A decade ago he jailed for 41 days the parents of a suspect in a rape case because they refused to cooperate with prosecutors.
In the past few days, though, Cashman has been vilified by conservatives on TV and on blogs. On Fox News, Bill O'Reilly told viewers as video of Cashman rolled, "You may be looking at the worst judge in the USA." And several Vermont Republican lawmakers have demanded he resign or be impeached.
The reason: Cashman sentenced a child molester to just 60 days of jail time - a sentence he said was designed to ensure the man got prompt sex-offender treatment but critics say was too soft.
The firestorm erupted last week when Cashman sentenced Mark Hulett, 34, for having sexual contact with a girl, beginning when she was 6, over a four-year period.
The Corrections Department had concluded that Hulett was unlikely to commit another such offense, and Vermont does not provide sex-offender treatment to such inmates until they reach the end of their jail time.
Cashman said he would have imposed more jail time if the state promised treatment while Hulett was jailed.
"The solution to these concerns requires quick and effective treatment," the judge wrote. He also noted that Hulett tested at a borderline intelligence level, has the emotional maturity of a 12- to 14-year-old and did not understand why others were so upset by his actions.
On Wednesday, the Corrections Department reversed course and said it would allow Hulett to be treated immediately, in hopes Cashman would impose a longer sentence. Prosecutors planned to file a request today asking the judge to do so. Apart from the memorandum, Cashman has refused to comment on the furor, citing judicial ethics.
In sentencing Hulett to 60 days, Cashman warned the defendant would get life behind bars if he failed to undergo treatment or comply with other conditions, including a prohibition against alcohol or living in an apartment complex that allows children.