By Ben Moger-Williams
A Vermont district judge changed the sentence for a Williston sex offender at a sentence hearing last week in a heavily guarded courtroom.
After hearing from Georgia Cumming, director of the state’s sex offender treatment program for the Department of Corrections, Judge Edward Cashman last week changed one part of the sentence he originally gave to convicted sex offender Mark Hulett. Under the new sentence, Hulett will spend at least three years behind bars, a step up from the controversial original 60 days in prison Cashman prescribed.
In the packed courtroom, which was guarded by 10 officers from the Sheriff’s Department, two Burlington police officers and a state trooper, Cumming testified that the department had effectively changed its policy, and would now treat all sex offenders as long as they were in prison for at least 11 months. The original policy, adopted in 2002, provided treatment in prison only for sex offenders with a high risk of re-offending. Hulett was classified by the department as less likely than other sex offenders to re-offend, and therefore ineligible for treatment. Cashman argued that the public would be safer if Hulett received treatment, even if it was provided outside of prison.
After Cummings’ testimony, Cashman heard from state’s attorney Bob Simpson and defense lawyer Mark Kaplan.
Simpson argued that Hulett had not been given his “just desserts,” and that the state demanded that he be punished more severely.
Kaplan countered that the state had not provided enough reason to send Hulett to prison for an extended sentence.
“It’s not the public that makes the decision,” Kaplan said. “It’s got to be based on evidence and the law.”
Cashman listened to both sides, then read from a prepared statement that changed one of Hulett’s three sentences. As the judge read the sentence, Hulett’s father, sitting in the front row, slowly shook his head.
Hulett was charged with two counts of Aggravated Sexual Assault on a Child, and one count of Lewd and Lascivious Behavior with a Child. The first assault count was amended to give Hulett no less than three years and no more than 10 in prison. The other two sentences, which were three years to life and 2-5 years respectively, remained the same. Those sentences were probated, which means they won’t be activated unless Hulett violates the conditions of his probation.
After Cashman read the sentence, Hulett, his parents, and his lawyers left the room to discuss whether or not he would change his plea, which would have sent the case to trial. However, when they returned Kaplan announced that Hulett would accept the new sentence and Hulett was escorted out of the courtroom.