by Peter Freyne
Well, it sure would have been an interesting story to cover - District Court Judge Ed Cashman's appearance at the Statehouse this coming winter to seek reappointment to another six-year term on the Vermont bench. But it ain't gonna happen. Cash will retire after his next cycle on the bench - this time up in Newport. The A.P.'s Dave Gram reports in Saturday's Vermont press.
Ol' Cash gave us the first big story of the year with a controversial sex-offender sentencing back on January 4 at the Judge Edward Costello Courthouse across from what's now Macy's in downtown Burlington. Because of that sentencing, yours truly ended up watching right-wing forked-tongue Bill O'Reilly on Fox for three whole weeks that month! Yuck! And we heard a lot of familiar names. We called it "Fox News Declares War on Vermont." You remember, right?
And here's a Cashman profile by Chris Graff (requires Boston Globe registration.)
****Update**** But all were topped by the Jan. 20 op-ed article that Republican state senator, Essex County prosecutor, St, Mike's grad and former Freeps reporter (in the 1970s) Vince Illuzzi penned for the Boston Globe:
A Rush to Judge the Judge
By Vincent Illuzzi
THE LAST TWO weeks have seen a frenzy of publicity, both in Vermont and across America, over the sentence handed down by Vermont District Court Judge Edward Cashman in the case of State v. Hulett.
Unfortunately, much of that national outcry has been based on the grossly inaccurate report of a remark the judge never actually made.
Mark Twain, a one-time reporter, said, ''A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes." If you wanted an example of the truth of that saying, this case is it.
And that's why we need to avoid a rush to judgment of Judge Cashman.
Television reporter Brian Joyce of Burlington's WCAX began the national roller coaster coverage on Jan. 4 with this inaccurate and highly inflammatory lead, according to the WCAX website:
''There was outrage Wednesday when a Vermont judge handed out a 60-day jail sentence to a man who raped a little girl many, many times over a four-year span starting when she was 7. The judge said he no longer believes in punishment and is more concerned about rehabilitation."
That was the lie that made it halfway round the world. The truth was quite different.
Cashman never said he did not believe in punishment. What he did say, which Joyce never quoted in that first story, was the following, according to the court transcript:
''And I keep telling prosecutors, and they won't hear me, that punishment is not enough."
Cashman used the example of Ed Towne, a graduate of the sex-offender treatment program who later murdered a 15-year-old girl. The judge wanted to be as sure as possible that defendant Mark Hulett did not reoffend. The sentence was structured -- based on available options -- to ensure treatment sooner rather than later, and to ensure long-term supervision.
But soon, across America, there were headlines about a Vermont judge who didn't believe in punishment and who felt that 60 days in jail was enough of a sentence for a child rapist.
The national news media had no idea what Cashman actually said or did, and no idea what options the Department of Corrections told him were available at the time of sentencing. They relied on the WCAX report.
Self-proclaimed victim advocates began to call for a boycott of Vermont if we did not get rid of this judge.
Some of my colleagues were only too happy to grab some national press, repeating the WCAX story, calling the judge names, and demanding his resignation. These ''probusiness" legislators readily spread the misinformation that has led to national radio and television commentators calling for people to shun the Green Mountain State.
I respect the importance of punishment, not only for public safety or 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 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. I guess it's easy to criticize an individual instead of a faceless department. One policy would not offer treatment for this offender while incarcerated, while another policy would release him after serving just 60 days of his 60-day to 10-year sentence, followed by treatment.
Did the judge properly balance the statutory objectives of sentencing -- punishment, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and restitution? The reconsideration motion filed by the state last week will give the court a chance to revisit that question. The case isn't over yet.
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 Jan. 4 hearing transcript.
In its words lie the facts of the matter -- not in the sadly inaccurate reporting that has helped to make this case a national sensation and create a lynch-mob mentality.
Vincent Illuzzi is a Republican state senator in Vermont.
Finally, (for now,) here's Ol' Cash's retirement letter to Chief Justice Paul Reiber:
August 30, 2006
Chief Justice Paul L. Reiber
Vermont Supreme Court
111 State Street Drawer 9
Montpelier, Vermont 05609
Dear Chief Justice:
Please be advised that I will retire from the position of District Court Judge at the end of this judicial term in April of 2007. I will have completed 25 years of service as a Judge, and 36 years of service to the State of Vermont in a variety of other capacities. I feel very fortunate to have had these opportunities.
I send this letter now, rather than in January, because 4 V.S.A. 604 sets September 1 as the deadline for announcing my intention to seek another judicial term. I did not want you or the others in the judiciary left wondering.
My family and I have discussed this issue for some time. Now in my mid-sixties, I must face the reality that I am no longer a young man. The prospect of another six years of the intense effort and attention needed to properly perform this function may exact a cost my family and I are no longer willing to pay. I have serious reservations as to whether or not I could continue with the 60-70 hour weeks the position demands. The stress of the decision-making in the trial courts, while difficult at times, is not as draining as other less visible demands of the position.
The toll also comes from the nature of the work and the timing of tasks. I feel a constant concern about keeping up with the work load and allocating the time to write quality findings. The multiple demands after normal work hours (preparing jury charges, awaiting jury verdicts, the long commuting requirements) all contribute to daily fatigue.
Added to that is the work at home the public is unaware of: calls at all times of night for juvenile emergencies, temporary orders in the relief from abuse petitions, and applications for search warrants.
The social isolation has also had its impact over the years. A judge’s life is indeed monkish, yet ironically, also lacks privacy. Both of these add to the load.
I would like to take this opportunity, while I still have the vitality, to redirect my energy and efforts in two areas that interest me intensely: my family and teaching.
Like most families in this mobile society, my children have spread to the winds. I would like to visit them on a regular basis. The demands of the trial bench do not permit this.
Secondly, I have taught at the college level for the past nine years, and I would like to expand that part of my life to offer more courses at several local colleges, and in some graduate programs.
I do not see myself leaving the judiciary, as much as playing a reduced role. I am looking forward to part-time activities, not only in traditional retired judges’ duties as needed, but more importantly, in continuing work with the mentally ill who come into our court system.
I am deeply indebted to those within the judiciary: the Supreme Court justices, the trial court judges, and the assistant judges, who have supported me over these years. I would also include the patience and support of the trial lawyers, the bar association, the clerks and court managers, the many jurors I have worked with, the sheriffs departments, the Department of Children and Family social workers, the many employees of the Department of Corrections, the police, and most importantly, the ever polite, ever patient, and ever supportive trial court staffs.
I especially want to acknowledge my indebtedness to the Court Administrator and his employees. I began in the judiciary in May of 1972 as a County Clerk. At that time, lawyers referred to the Supreme Court Building as the State Library. Three employees managed the work within the clerk’s office. Time and conditions have changed for the better for all in the judiciary. We now have an excellent, well-coordinated and well-managed trial court system because of the long time efforts of our current court administrator and his staff. I am grateful to have been part of these changes.
With warmest regards,
Edward J. Cashman
District Court Judge
I stood by Ol' Cash last January when the you-know-what hit the fan. And, as I recall, with the exception of the local Gannett-chain Freeps, Vermont's editorial pages did, too.
Because Cashman was right. Not popular, but right.
Change is the only constant in life, they say. These days we're hearing that Rutland Republican State Sen. Wendy Wilton, a top Cashman critic who appeared on O'Reilly, is facing a tough reeelection bid.
The thing that got me back in January was to hear Wilton and other Cashman attackers like Burlington GOP Rep. Kurt Wright (who also appeared on O'Reilly), freely admit they knew absolutely nothing about Cashman, his 20+ years as a black robe, or even a single other case he's handled that they had a problem with. Not one! But they still wanted him strung up.
Ah, but there was a Fox TV spotlight waiting to be filled!
Still, since it was a fellow Vermont public servant's head in the noose, you'd think Wilton and Wright would have had the decency to do a little nosing around and research to learn something about the judge and his record before calling for his execution.
Live and learn, eh, when political grandstanding is involved?