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Backstory: Best Inaccurate Story Tip


Published December 27, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated December 27, 2017 at 10:03 a.m.

  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Ed Cashman

Last winter, I heard from a source that a retired Vermont judge, Ed Cashman, was working as an Uber driver. It wasn't exactly Watergate material, but I figured it would make for a fun little feature.

I tracked down Cashman, 73, and cold-called him. His response: "No, that's not true. I've always been faithful, and I'm happily married."

Instead of "I heard you're driving for Uber," Cashman thought I'd said: "I heard you were having an affair."

Also, it turned out Cashman wasn't driving for Uber or any other cab company. Despite my intrusion, he did not hang up or scream at me for calling out of the blue to ask if he was cheating on his wife. We got to talking.

I had never met Cashman but was well aware of how his career ended. He abruptly retired in 2006 after sentencing a child molester to only two months in prison. Former Fox News bloviator Bill O'Reilly railed against Cashman every night for weeks, telling his viewers that the quiet Vietnam veteran might be "the worst judge in the USA." Then-governor Jim Douglas urged Cashman to resign. It was a hysterical response to a poorly understood story.

In fact, the case, and Cashman's reasoning, were complex and nuanced. But at the time, none of that mattered.

I began to see Cashman as an early victim of a virulent strain of reactionary, irresponsible media coverage that has only worsened since he stepped down. Judges don't often get to explain themselves. Eleven years after his career crashed, Cashman was ready to weigh in on his experience and the criminal justice system.

I'm glad I had a reason to call him.