April 15, 2010
By Lisa Rathke
The Associated Press
Calling it an unspeakable offense, a Vermont judge on April 6 sentenced a sexual assault victim’s mother to serve 2 to 10 years in prison for failing to protect the girl but said the plea agreement did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.
“What is most striking to me is that every living creature on this planet that cares for its young would give his or her life to protect its young. It’s instinctive, and for some reason that instinct was absent in you. This was simply horrendous,” Vermont District Court Judge Michael Kupersmith told the 34-year-old Williston woman, who was convicted of being an accessory to a sexual assault.
The Associated Press does not identify sexual assault victims without their consent and is withholding the woman’s name because naming her would effectively identify her daughter. The girl, who’s now 14, was in court for the sentencing.
The woman pleaded to being an accessory to sexual assault because she allowed Mark Hulett, now 39, access to her child knowing that he was molesting her, prosecutor Susan Hardin said.
“From 2003 to 2005 the defendant allowed Hulett into their home, not only into their home, but into their child’s bed,” Hardin said.
The girl’s aunt spoke before the sentencing, telling the woman tearfully that she has caused irreparable damage to the girl, who will likely have to attend therapy for the rest of her life.
The girl “said that one thing she will never ever forget is the look on your face when you walked in and saw her being abused. She said it was a mixed look of both shock and like you were thinking, whatever. And she said she remembers you turning around and walking out of the room, leaving your 8-year-old little girl there to suffer,” she said.
Hulett of Williston is still in prison for sexually assaulting the girl between 2001 and 2005. The case drew national attention after Hulett was originally sentenced to a minimum of 60 days in jail, which the judge said was necessary so he could get sex offender treatment that he would not be eligible for in prison. But after public outcry and change that allowed him to get treatment in prison, a judge sentenced him to serve 3 to 10 years.
The woman’s lawyer, William Norful, called the case “a compilation of tragedy,” saying the woman suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder.
Sobbing, she told the court she was sorry for what she had done.
“I wish I could have been the one to protect her the way she should have been protected but my past made it hard for me to do it,” she said.
But Kupersmith didn’t believe her explanation.
“I do not buy the argument that because you may have been abused … that somehow excuses or justifies your offense,” he said. “I’ve seen many people who were abused as children who turned out to be exemplary parents.”
Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said the charge was unusual.
“I think this sentence is going to send a message in the state of Vermont that those who are entrusted to care for their kids and other young people that when they turn a blind eye or a cold shoulder to the abuse that this young victim went through we’re going to hold them accountable.”