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Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2006 / 23 Teves 5766

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Vermont justice

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Ralph Page is a problem. The 35-year-old Vermont man has twice been convicted of drunk driving, and now faces charges of theft and assaulting his girlfriend. He's a typical low-level offender who shuffles around causing trouble and clogging up the justice system.


On Jan. 17, Page ambled into Judge Patricia Zimmerman's courtroom to answer charges that he punched a woman in the face. Apparently, Page did not like hearing the charges against him and screamed out, "this is f—-ing bull——." That annoyed Judge Zimmerman, who promptly found Page in contempt of court and sentenced him to 60 days in a Vermont jail.


Nothing wrong with that, but listen to this: That 60-day sentence is the same amount of jail time another Vermont judge, Edward Cashman, awarded 34-year-old Mark Hulett. But it is here where the Vermont justice system collapses. Incredibly, Hulett pled guilty to a variety of felony sexual assault charges against a 6-year-old girl. Over a period of four years, Hulett, a friend of the girl's mother, confessed to raping the child in her own home. It was a methodical and brutal series of actions on Hulett's part, and it has devastated an innocent little girl.


But when it came time to sentence Hulett, Judge Cashman suspended all but 60 days of a potential life prison stretch, because Cashman wanted Hulett to get "treatment." At sentencing the judge said: "I keep telling prosecutors, and they won't hear me, that punishment is not enough."


So here's justice in the state of Vermont: Cursing at a judge merits the same prison time as repeatedly raping a 6-year-old girl.


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If Hulett had committed the same crime in Florida, he would now be serving 25-to-life in the penitentiary because that state has passed mandatory minimum sentences for felony battery on children. But Vermont has no such minimums. So Mark Hulett, child rapist, is set to walk free on March 4.


The philosophy of our nation is "equal justice under the law." Obviously, the abused little girl and her family did not get justice by any measure. Clear-thinking people understand that true justice requires that the punishment fit the crime.


But Judge Cashman does not understand that. His sympathies are with the rapist, and he did not even attempt to hide that fact. Because of Cashman's outrageous sentence, you would think Vermonters would be calling for his gavel and robe.


You would think. But you'd be wrong.


Most of the state's liberal newspapers are supporting Cashman. The far-left Brattleboro Reformer editorialized: "Lengthy jail terms, without rehabilitation will not accomplish anything."


Really? How about keeping child rapists away from children? Doesn't a lengthy prison term accomplish that?


Vermont's shameful story is being played out in other places as well. But it is in this tiny state, the second least populated behind Wyoming, that a horrendous violation of human rights is taking place.


Yet we have heard nothing from former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, or Sens. Leahy and Jeffords, or social activist Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, which is based in the Green Mountain State.


Also, the ACLU is silent as well.


Meantime, an abused little girl will likely live out her life in anguish and confusion, her low-income family is devastated, and the crazy left media believes Judge Cashman is the victim of unreasonable "demagogues."


They say the skiing is great this winter in Vermont. But I'm not going. There's something in the air there that I cannot abide.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of, most recently, "Who's Looking Out for You?" Comments by clicking here.

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