MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ A judge who was widely vilified when he sentenced a sex offender to two months in jail said the case has been the highlight of his career.

Vermont District Court Judge Edward Cashman said the case enabled him to remain firm in his belief that the sentence was legal and that sentences must be concerned with more than just punishment.

``I think one of the risks a judge has to take is knowing that when you make a difficult decision it very well may be misunderstood,'' he said in an interview Sunday. ``And then comes the real hard part: You gotta remain quiet.''

Cashman had been berated by lawmakers, editorial writers and national cable news commentators for imposing the minimum sentence on Mark Hulett, who had been convicted for repeated sexual assaults on a young girl. The judge said the short sentence was the best way to get Hulett the sex offender treatment he needed.

State corrections officials later changed their policy for treating sex offenders, allowing Hulett to get treatment while in prison and prompting Cashman to increase the sentence to a three-year minimum.

Some critics who thought the original sentence was too short suggested that the judge had said he didn't believe in punishment. But a court transcript showed that Cashman said, ``punishment is not enough.''

``If there's any lesson that would be applicable judiciary-wise, (it) is the print media will straighten it out,'' Cashman said Sunday. ``They will straighten it out given enough time, which is exactly what happened. And there was a big huge record for the public to take a look at. I feel very fortunate. I look at it as the highlight of my career ... That you could stand up for something that was right.''

The judicial conduct board ruled last month that the original sentence was legal and ethical.

Cashman, who will retire in March after 24 years on the bench, was honored Sunday by the Vermont Press Association for his commitment to the First Amendment right of a free press.

He was given an award in honor of Matthew Lyon, a Vermont member of Congress who was convicted and jailed in 1798 under the Sedition Act for publishing a letter criticizing President John Adams.