Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Definition of A Profile In Courage in the Vermont Judiciary

I am going to recommend that Judge Edward Cashman get an award for heroism. Cashman is a small town district court judge in Vermont. He has angered the entire Neo-con establishment, because he had the temerity to impose a sentence that was meant to ensure that a 34 year old sexual predator with the mental age of a 12 year old, never harmed someone else against.

Whether you are a fan of long jail terms for sex offenders or not, it seems axiomatic that if someone is convicted of a sexual crime on a seven year old, that person needs more than just jail. The State of Vermont however has a rule, that if someone is a low risk to offend again, it doesn't offer that person treatment. It is a cost saving thing I guess. It seems short sighted but this is the government we're talking about here.

In the case that Ed Cashman had before him, he had two choices; a short sentence and probation with heavy offender treatment, or a longer jail sentence that would turn the offender back in the community in 2-5 years, without treating the underlying causes of the sexual urge. In other words, a seven year old already had her life destroyed. If Cashman did what was popular, he was sure that the offender would offend again. If he did the popular thing, his job would be secure, but his community would not be.

Now I can hear a bunch of people say "well at least things would be safe right now if the guy was in jail." True, execpt Cashman has the power to order house arrest. He can also jail the guy for life if he acts out just once. He can set very stringent requirements on the defendant's behaviors and movements. Most importantly, he can insure that the defendant gets treatment that will further lessen the chance that this low risk defendant will become a recidivist. The one thing he could not accomplish was getting the treatment if he put the kid in jail because of the policy of the Vermont Corrections Department(an executive branch department.)

Now what does this Judge do. He loves his job. He is good at it. He is considered a hard case judge and a republican conservative. He is a conservative Roman Catholic, who served in Vietnam (I think 2 tours.) He is a former prosecutor (who my friends in Vermont tell me was the bane of defense attorneys.)

If he wants to keep his job he warehouses the kid and complains on the record that the "jail" gives him no choice but to incarcerate the kid without getting him the help he needs. No one will read the record, and when the kid gets out in 2-5 years, he is right back where he is now, but with somebody else's kid. Ed Cashman could not live with that.

Cashman would have loved to have sentenced the kid to three years, not to be punishing, but to secure the community while ensuring the kid got the help he needs. The Dept. Of Corrections forced his hand. I wonder what the little girl who was assaulted would say if she had to make the choice to incarcerate the guy who raped her for a short time and seeing another child hurt in later years, or having the guy stay out now but being much less dangerous to another kid?

Cashman has be boiled in oil by the Neo-con bloggers and the MLM nut jobs like O'Reilly and others. They incorrectly reported that the judge had decided never to punish anyone ever again and that he had gone soft in his old age. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Boston Globe finally printed the truth about the judge. He never said he didn't believe the defendant should not be punished. He said that punishing the defendant wasn't enough.

When reporting about courtroom news, it is dangerous to comment unless you are there, or have read the transcripts. Nevertheless if you are going to call a judge "The worst Judge in the USA" and call for his removal from the bench, it would help if you have read the transcript. It makes it harder maybe to make your case, but at least you save yourself from charges that you are bombastic and rushing to judgment. And you would think if anyone should be careful about bringing false charges against someone, it would be O'Reilly. Boy Billy, how quickly you forget. I won't hold my breath waiting for you to apologize and issue a retraction. You're just not that kind of conservative are you Billy boy?

Any way. In 2007 the NYS Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers will give out the Thurgood Marshall and the William Brennan awards. Maybe they will consider giving one to Cashman. If Carolyn Kennedy Schlossberg is reading this, might this not be just like the biographies in your father's wonderful and inspiring book.

Meanwhile back in Montpelier, the Governor and other legislative blowhards hiding under the self given label of conservative call for the Judges resignation. Gutless wonders. How about you guys take some responsiblity. How about you all admit you screwed up and permitted an impossible policy that handcuff the people who are in charge of making the best decision. How about, before deciding on penalties and policy, you talk to some people who might know something about what is really needed to properly deal with tough cases, instead of just giving platitudes and longer sentences to molify the O'Reilly's of the world.

Why is it so hard to find leaders who know how to lead. Maybe Cashman ought to run for Governor.

UPDATE: For a really good and accurate depiction of the case, the Judge and the law and who is really the problem in this matter go here and read Peter Freyne's insightful article based on fact not heresay and innuendo.
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