(HOST)Commentator Vince Illuzzi thinks that the question of whether or not justice has been served in the recent controversy over the sentencing of a convicted sex offender is a good one – but he would apply it to the public “rush to judgement” of Judge Cashman as well.
(ILLUZZI) The last few days have seen a frenzy of publicity over the sentence handed down by Judge Edward Cashman in the case of State v. Hulett.
Unfortunately, much of that national outcry has been based on the report of a remark the judge never actually made.
In the words of Mark Twain, a one time reporter, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
National roller coaster coverage began on January 4, when it was reported that Judge Cashman had sentenced a child molester to a sixty-day jail sentence because he no longer believed in punishment and was more concerned about rehabilitation. The truth was quite different.
What Judge Cashman did say was the following: “And I keep telling prosecutors, and they won’t hear me, that punishment is not enough.”
The judge wanted to be as sure as possible that the rapist did not reoffend. The sentence was structured – based on available options – to ensure treatment sooner rather than later, and to ensure life-time supervision.
But soon, across America, there were headlines about a Vermont judge who didn’t believe in punishment and who felt that sixty days in jail was enough of a sentence for a child rapist.
The national news media had no idea of what Judge Cashman had actually said or done, and no idea of what options the Department of Corrections told him were available at the time of sentencing.
Victim advocates began to call for a boycott of Vermont if we did not get rid of this judge. Some of my legislative colleagues were only too happy to repeat the misinformation and feed the controversy.
Punishment is important, not only for public safety and rehabilitation, but for the value of punishment itself. Justice demands that when someone does a very bad thing, something very bad ought to happen to that person as a consequence. But Cashman is right that punishment alone is not enough.
The inadequately punitive aspect of the sentence has been widely reported, but the role played by the Department of Corrections in the formulation and execution of that sentence has been largely ignored. One Department of Corrections policy would not offer treatment for this offender if incarcerated, while another policy would release him after serving just sixty days of a sixty-day to ten year sentence.
Did the judge properly balance the statutory objectives of sentencing – punishment, rehabilitation, incapacitation and restitution? The reconsideration motion filed by the state on January 13 will give the Court a chance to revisit that question. This case isn’t over.
In the meantime, I would urge all reporters, before they write another story about this case, and all legislators, before they take any action relating to this case, to read the January 4 hearing transcript.
In its words lie the facts of the matter.
I’m Vince Illuzzi of Derby.
Senator Vince Illuzzi is a Republican who has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Joint Committee on Judicial Retention and the Judicial Nomination Board.