A judge who freed a man who pleaded guilty to rape said it would have been a miscarriage of justice to sentence him to prison because the victim was "such a pitiful woman."
Saying the 40-year-old woman was partly to blame for the attack, Circuit Judge Kenneth Leffler rejected a plea agreement calling for Mark Edward McCulloch to serve 41/2 years in prison and 10 years' probation. He ordered McCulloch, 36, freed from jail to serve two years' probation.Assistant State Attorney Michele Heller said she was outraged and would appeal the sentence. Gov. Bob Martinez on Friday urged Leffler to resign. The governor has no power to remove Leffler, who is due to retire in December after 15 years on the bench.
"It is almost incomprehensible that an experienced jurist could suggest that a rape victim, in essence, had it coming," Martinez said in a letter to the 62-year-old judge.
The judge, reached at his Winter Springs home Friday, declined comment.
Victim advocate Beth Bridges said the victim, who was not in court for the sentencing hearing Thursday, was horrified and fears McCulloch will follow through with death threats she said he made during the attack.
The judge explained he was familiar with the woman from a divorce case he handled several years ago. He sided with the woman then but said he believed there was more to the rape story than met the eye.
"I think it would have been a miscarriage of justice to sentence that man the way they (prosecutors) wanted him to be sentenced," the judge said later in an interview. "Anyone who could be so stupid to take up with this woman deserves some consideration."
McCulloch, who rented a room in the victim's home for two years, had no criminal record and professes to love her. He said he was sorry and maintains he and the victim had an intimate relationship when they lived together.