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Accused Child Molester Goes to Disney World
March 9, 2007

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

An accused child molester was brought into Judge R. Craig Sahlstrom's court. He had a record of prior convictions.

What did the judicial genius do? He sent the guy to Disney World.

In Boone County near Rockford, Ill., Frank D. Atherton was accused of sexually assaulting three children under the age of 13.

Despite the prosecutor's objections, the judge gave the OK for a trip to Florida and Disney World to a guy with three pending felonies over his head.

Judge Sahlstrom disclosed that he had represented Atherton in a previous case. Why in the world did he not recuse himself?

The issue wouldn't even have come up if an appropriate bail amount had been set. The bail was only $100,000, which means that the defendant only had to come up with $10,000 to stay out of the slammer while he awaited trial.

As we see all too many times, the defendant had been convicted before. In this case, it was for armed robbery, burglary, theft and resisting a police officer. Added to the record were indictments for alleged sexual criminality involving three kids, two girls and a boy, all under the age of 13.

The courts have a duty to protect the public from dangerous criminality, especially with regard to our children. Failure on the part of the judiciary to protect innocent children has become an epidemic in Vermont.

In 2006, Judge Edward Cashman sentenced a molester of a 6-year-old girl to 60 days in jail. The little girl had been victimized for four years. After the case gained national attention thanks to the "O'Reilly Factor," Cashman modified the sentence and made it three years, still grossly insufficient.

Most recently, Judge David Howard approved a plea deal and allowed the accused molester of a 4-year-old boy to walk away with probation and mandatory treatment.

After Judge Cashman drew some national attention, the Vermont legislature voted on Jessica's Law, a law that takes sentencing discretion away from judges in child molestation cases and imposes mandatory prison terms. Tragically, the Vermont legislature rejected Jessica's Law.

Meanwhile some state legislators are looking at laws that impose the death sentence for certain child molesters.

In Texas, a new set of laws is on the legislative agenda to help protect children from predators. The laws would mandate that judges give at least 25 years to life for first time violent sex offenses against children under the age of 14. Offenders would be required to have lifetime global positioning satellite tracking devices.

For second offenses, the death penalty would be allowed, and the statute of limitations for such crimes would be doubled.

The Utah House recently passed a bill allowing the death penalty for the murders of children under the age of 14 during abuse, sexual assault or kidnapping.

One thing is for certain; in a decent society perpetrators of such monstrous crimes must be irrevocably removed.

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
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