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January 5, 2006

The kind of case that can prompt needed reforms

A helpful reader sent me this fascinating sentencing story from Vermont, commenting that "maybe this is why some jurisdictions have guidelines":

A Williston man who admitted repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl for four years was sentenced Wednesday to spend 60 days in prison — a punishment that angered the victim's family but was defended by the judge as the only way to provide counseling for the perpetrator....

The problem, agreed the judge and attorneys, was that the state Corrections Department decided it would not offer any sex-offender treatment for Hulett while he is in prison.... Judge Edward Cashman's sentence, which he handed down after a two-hour hearing in Vermont District Court in Burlington, could incarcerate Hulett for the rest of his life if he fails to obtain counseling or otherwise follow instructions once he is freed in 60 days....

Prosecutors wanted Hulett incarcerated for at least eight years, and in impassioned pleas the girl's family members asked for a stern sentence.  Cashman, though, told the crowded courtroom that punishment was not his priority in sentencing Hulett, but rather finding treatment for the man to prevent future abuse....

Prosecutor Nicole Andreson said punishment is a valid component of a sentence. "This is not only about Mr. Hulett," Andreson said in arguing for an eight-year minimum. "To sentence him to any less demeans the level of trauma he has caused. To sentence him to any less will send a disturbing message of tolerance to the community."

Cashman disagreed, saying retribution "accomplishes nothing of value."  "We feed on anger," the judge said. "That's not my job. I've got to do something that solves problems. The one message I want to get through is, anger doesn't solve anything."

Hulett spoke briefly at the end of the hearing, crying as he apologized for his actions. "I want to get treatment. I need it," he said before officers led him from the courtroom to begin his prison term.

After the hearing, Andreson said the main question the hearing raised is why Hulett wasn't eligible for sex-offender treatment as an inmate.

January 5, 2006 at 09:56 AM | Permalink

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Posted by: richard | Jun 26, 2007 2:38:34 PM

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