Vermont Judge Sentences Convicted Child Rapist to 60-day Sentence

A Vermont Judge caught national attention for his January 4th sentencing of Mark Hulett, 34, of Williston, for the repeated raping of a young girl. The controversy surrounding the decision arose from the astonishingly short length of the prison sentence handed down by Judge Edward Cashman who suspended all but 60 days of his 10-year minimum sentence.

The decision not only incited outrage around the Champlain Valley, but has prompted strong bi-partisan support from Vermont legislators for Judge Cashman’s impeachment. Cashman’s decision has even inspired Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly to pose this online poll question: “If Judge Cashman is not removed from criminal cases, will you boycott Vermont?”

Hulett admitted to repeatedly sexually assaulting a friend’s daughter from the time she was 6 until she turned 10 in April. He received a cumulative sentence on three felonies, of five years and 60 days to life in prison.

Court documents reveal that the assaults included oral-genital contact and genital touching. Hulett cannot be held longer then 60 days unless he misbehaves in prison or if he is unable to obtain suitable housing away from children following his release.

He would be returned to prison for up to 99 years if he violates any of the 22 conditions governing his release, including that he obtain sex-offender treatment.

The details of the case included that the victim’s parents were aware that Hulett had an interest in the girl, and that the two had occasionally slept in the same bed. Police were informed about the situation by an older girl whom the victim had confided in.

Judge Cashman defended his decision by stressing the need for Hulett to retrieve sex offender treatment. Under the Department of Corrections classification, Hulett is considered a low-risk for re-offense so he does not qualify for in-prison treatment.

Cashman disagreed with this evaluation and found that Hulett has the emotional maturity of a 12-14 year old and is in need of a lifetime of treatment.

“This creates the most difficult dilemma of the sentencing,” Cashman wrote. “Any extensive minimum sentence prevents meaningful treatment. Delay of treatment within a closed facility increases the long-term risk the defendant presents to the community. Given these options the court chose to reduce the long-term risks and permit an opportunity for quick treatment.”

Prosecutors were seeking a sentence of at least 8 to 20 years in prison as part of the punishment. A member of the victim’s family, who asked not to be identified, stated that: “He should pay for what he did to my baby and stop it here. She’s not even home with me and he can be home for all this time, and do what he did in my house.”

Multiple reports immediately following the sentencing hearing falsely proclaimed that Cashman told the courtroom that he “did not believe in punishment.” The court transcript actually recorded Cashman informing the Court that “Punishment is not enough.” and further explained; “I hope I have made clear that the amount of retribution sought in this case is self-defeating. Deterring future crimes of sexual abuse of children requires the court’s very best efforts to use the available tools.”

In response to the public outcry over this case, the Department of Corrections has changed their classification practices by making low risk offenders with at least an eight month sentence start their treatment programs while in prison.

This does not however affect the status of Hulett because his sentence was for only 60 days. Meanwhile, State legislators have set forth a proposal for what is called a mandatory minimums statute. According to the bill’s text, mandatory minimums would make several changes to Vermont statutes regarding sexual offenses. Most notably the bill would create a 25 year mandatory minimum prison term for anyone 18 or older who sexually assaults a child under 12.

Most states have adopted some form of the mandatory minimums law, and it is often in response to the type of publicly perceived lenient sentences that was adjudicated to Hulett.

The Cashman controversy continues to be a live issue at the Chittenden County Court House. A motion asking the judge to reconsider the sentence is still pending.