The media misrepresentation of the sentence that District Court Judge Edward Cashman handed child molester Mark Hulett on January 4 reached "Twilight Zone" proportions this week as Fox News windbag extraordinaire Bill O'Reilly called for a "boycott of the State of Vermont!"
Portraying it inaccurately as merely a "60-day sentence" (more on that later), O'Reilly told his 2 million-plus viewers Monday evening, "The state of Vermont's never going to recover from this. Ever. Unless Cashman is removed. People will not go there. They will not buy your products. They will turn their back and your state will have a stigma forever. People will remember. This isn't going away!"
O'Reilly has vilified Vermont officials, including Gov. Jim Douglas, House Speaker Gaye Symington and the entire legislature, for not immediately removing Cashman from the bench -- as commanded by King O'Reilly.
"There are no public demonstrations against Judge Cashman," screamed O'Reilly. "Where are activists Ben & Jerry, the activists who constantly scream about human rights? Where's former Gov. Howard Dean? Sens. Jeffords and Leahy? Where's socialist Congressman Bernie Sanders? He cares about the victim's rights," scoffed the Joe McCarthy of the 21st century.
Ah, we knew he'd get around to Howard Dean eventually. Just imagine the cries of disappointment that rang through Fox News headquarters when they learned Judge Cashman was appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Richard Snelling, not by the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
"The Vermont media," screeched the Fox witch hunter, "also continues to prop up Cashman. Associated Press Reporter Christopher Graff has written another sympathetic story on the judge. And a program on Vermont Public Television criticized me over the weekend."
As we recall, yours truly referred to O'Reilly as a "jerk" on VPT.
O'Reilly's online poll question is: "If Judge Cashman is not removed from criminal cases, will you boycott Vermont?"
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Alice is back in Wonderland. So far, none of the other TV "news" networks, nor any credible newspapers has bitten on this rotten core. Why not?
Because, quite simply, the facts do not support the Great Fox of Fox News.
Research indicates the sentencing was covered by The Burlington Free Press and TV news. But there was a striking difference between the two, and it has, we suggest, made all the difference.
WCAX-TV reporter Brian Joyce stated four times in his first two reports that Judge Cashman had told the courtroom he "did not believe in punishment."
It's a truly shocking statement. Everyone seized upon it. How could a judge possibly not believe in punishment? It's like having an executioner who does not support the death penalty, or an astronaut who doesn't believe in liftoff.
Like many others, even Republican Gov. Jim Douglas formed his opinion based on what Joyce reported.
"I assume the statement is true because I saw it on the TV news," said Douglas last week. "But if that's really how he feels, if he doesn't believe in punishment, I think Vermonters would not tolerate someone like that serving as a judge."
Unfortunately, Ch. 3 did not provide, and so far has not provided, a sound bite in which Cashman said what reporter Joyce said he said.
Ladies and gentlemen, it simply doesn't exist!
After carefully reading the entire court transcript (which was posted on The Burlington Free Press website), A.P. writer Christopher Graff wrote a story on Saturday pointing out that Cashman never said what some media sources claimed. Graff did not identify WCAX by name.
His accurate and courageous reporting contradicts the cornerstone of the Fox News lynch mob's argument. It has also put the respected veteran Vermont journalist on O'Reilly's personal hit list.
Congratulations, Mr. Graff!
Meanwhile, we've tried to get an explanation from Mr. Joyce about the obvious discrepancy. Joyce will only state, "I stand by my stories." He declined to discuss the matter further.
WCAX News Director Marselis Parsons informed us via email, "The judge did not use those words precisely, and we did not say so. But they are an accurate description of his opinion as expressed on several separate occasions in that hearing.
"After a careful review of the transcript and the videotape of the Hulett sentencing hearing, we feel that Brian's stories have been a fair and accurate representation of what transpired.
"The simple answer is," wrote Parsons, "'Yes, we stand by his story.'"
Amazing. WCAX is embracing the ol' bunker mentality, refusing to admit a mistake. Unfortunately, WCAX's defense is not based on the facts. Joyce said what he said, completely misquoting and misinterpreting Cashman. Ch. 3's defensiveness is only helping the anti-Vermont Fox News.
What the court transcript actually shows is an extremely vigilant judge, deeply concerned about the victim and about potential future victims. Cashman actually said that in the Hulett case, "Punishment is not enough." He fashioned a sentence designed to protect potential future victims. And anyone who grasps the entire three-count sentence, not just the 60-day minimum on count one, knows that's exactly what Cashman did.
The reality is, the judge gave Hulett what adds up to a life sentence. If he doesn't complete treatment, or if he ever violates any of his extremely stringent conditions of release, he's back in prison forever. That's very unusual for a first-time offender. Cashman obviously did not buy the low-risk rating assigned Hulett by the Douglas administration.
The quickest way to get Hulett treatment was to order a 60-day minimum that qualifies him for the outside program.
Now Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says he'll change the rules for Hulett and is willing to treat him on the inside.
Stay tuned on that.
As for WCAX-TV's reporting, Republican State Sen. Vince Illuzzi told "Inside Track," "With the release of the transcript, it is clear that the grossly inaccurate WCAX-TV report has caused the judge, the court system and the state of Vermont to be held up to scorn and ridicule."
Illuzzi, the chief prosecutor in Essex County, said he definitely "respects the importance of punishment, not for public safety or rehabilitation, but simply as punishment. So does Judge Cashman, but punishment alone is not enough," noted Sen. Illuzzi. "Judge Cashman was taking the long view -- get the offender in sex-offender treatment so he doesn't do it again."
There you have it, folks. Unfortunately, we doubt right-wing Fox News is going to let the truth get in the way of their anti-Vermont crusade.
After all, the more airtime devoted to bashing Vermont, the less airtime for talking about the impeachment of the lawbreaker in the White House.
In Fox News' view, if protecting President Bush means crucifying a respected Vermont judge on false charges, so be it.
As U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy's chief of staff Ed Pagano put it this week, "O'Reilly's specialty is pandering and bullying, not honest debate. He doesn't understand Vermont and probably never will."
Home Sweet Home -- It's quite the grand million-dollar house with a nice dock on the water's edge. Certainly it's a home that would do a U.S. Senator proud. And if Republican gazillionaire Richard Tarrant, the retired IDX medical software CEO, pulls off the political upset in November that he's dreaming about, next year it will be the home of a U.S. Senator from Vermont!
According to town tax records available online, the home occupied by Mr. Tarrant and his lovely wife Deborah Tarrant is assessed at $1,152,640. And just last month, on December 1, the Tarrants paid their annual local property tax bill of $24,091.64.
It would have been a lot more had the Tarrants not claimed the "homestead exemption" they're legally entitled to. Homesteads are taxed at a lower rate because they are a person's "primary" residence. According to town tax records, Tarrant's homestead exemption dropped his property's assessment by $25,000 and lowered his taxes!
Hey, every little bit helps. We're not begrudging Richie a legal tax break in any way, shape or form.
But there's a little problem, folks.
The problem is, Richie is seeking a U.S. Senate seat in Vermont, but his home, the one he claimed as a homestead last month when he paid his property taxes, is not in Vermont!
GOP Candidate Tarrant's "homestead" is actually located in a coastal enclave for the wealthy called Lighthouse Point. And Lighthouse Point is in Broward County, Florida, along the Atlantic coast.
If Richie Rich defeats Independent Bernie Sanders in the November election, not only will it be a miracle, but it will also be the first time a Florida resident won statewide office in Vermont!
Lately, Mr. Tarrant has apparently been residing at his second home on Malletts Head Road in Colchester, Vermont. Like most second homes, it doesn't come close to the "homestead" in Florida.
According to the Colchester clerk's office, Tarrant's second home is assessed at just $477,600. Compared to the value of the GOP candidate's Florida home (where he keeps his $158,000 Bentley), Richie's Colchester hacienda is merely a "camp."
According to Assistant Clerk Wanda Morin, Vermont's GOP U.S. Senate hopeful did not claim his Colchester house as his "homestead" for Vermont property-tax purposes in 2005. After all, making simultaneous "homestead" claims for tax-reduction purposes in two different states, said Morin, would be illegal.
In order to make his Colchester camp his homestead for Election Year 2006, said Morin, Tarrant will have to file form HS-131 with the state.
We contacted the Tarrant Campaign Tuesday and asked Camapign Manager Tim Lennon if Tarrant's Colchester home was his homestead in 2005. He replied, "Yes."
To prove it, Lennon then faxed us a copy of an HS-131 form Tarrant filed with the state of Vermont last April claiming such.
Unfortunately, another check with the Colchester clerk's office indicated a problem. The HS-131 requesting "homestead" status that Lennon sent us incorrectly identified a parcel of open land Tarrant owns in Colchester. It was not approved, said Morin.
Tarrant's Colchester "home" was taxed at the second-home rate in 2005, said Morin, just like any other out-of-stater's Vermont vacation home.
Vermont GOP U.S. Senate candidate Richard Tarrant's official homestead at the moment is actually in the Sunshine State.
Showtime! -- Richie Rich was the guest of honor Sunday morning on a fine edition of Ch. 3's "You Can Quote Me."
Marselis Parsons and Andy Potter fired the questions, and Potter even asked about the Bentley. Andy noted that popular blogger David Sirota -- http:// www.sirota.com -- wrote that Tarrant "was driving around in his exotic new Bentley sports car."
"I read that," said the veteran Vermont newsman, "and thought, what an image!"
"I'm not going to apologize for success," replied the richest man in Vermont (unofficially). "Nobody's seen me driving the car around," said Tarrant, "because it's a collector's piece and it doesn't get driven except very rarely. It's an investment."
Richie was also asked by the Ch. 3 Inquisitors to kindly clarify his abortion position.
"I would want to go to Washington to work very hard to reduce abortions to virtually zero," said the Florida resident, er, Vermont candidate. "I want to do that through adoption, education, through parental notification. But the bottom line, as Judge Roberts said, is Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, and I'd respect the law of the land."
Marsillyiss asked how he'd vote on programs that support Planned Parenthood and a woman's right to choose.
"I couldn't say how I'd vote on any specific legislation," replied Richie. "You have to see it and see how it works out."
Potter asked him about the policy of Tarrant's private, charitable foundation, which denies funds to "organizations that advocate or support abortion."
"My personal foundation," answered Tarrant, "will not use money to pay for abortions. That's true."
As for other issues, Tarrant had bad news for the residents of New Orleans who want their city back. In the midst of a pitch about the need for a new "business mindset" in Washington, Tarrant suddenly blurted out as an example hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.
"We cannot afford, in my opinion, to rebuild a city below sea level at the same time we're building a nation halfway across the world," said Tarrant. "Mother Nature's saying she wants her marshes back, and the proper environmental thing to do is let that go back to nature. Mother Nature always wins."
Vote Tarrant, close Bourbon Street?
Mayor's Race -- Our sources say Burlington City Councilor Andy Montroll will not mount an independent mayoral campaign, despite narrowly losing the packed Democratic caucus to Hinda Miller.
That leaves Progressive "Quiet Man" Rep. Bob Kiss and Republican Councilor Kevin Curley to slug it out.
Curley's Campaign Manager Harry Snyder tells "Inside Track" they hope to have the website -- http://www.kevincurley.org -- up and running "by week's end."
Snyder worked as human resources director for seven years in the administration of Progressive/ Democratic Mayor Peter Clavelle.
"Human resources director," said Snyder, "is a position that really isn't political. It's about fairness, equity and making the organization better."
Snyder said he thinks Curley "is going to be a great mayor."
That's good to know, eh?