T.J. Hauler is a Chesterfield County, Virginia Circuit judge who has now twice stayed the prison sentence of convicted rapist Logan Michael Osborn.
Osborn, 19, originally received a 10-year sentence with eight years suspended for raping a 14-year-old girl in April 2017. Although sentenced in January, Osborn avoided prison, as Hauler stayed his sentence on the day of Osborn’s sentencing, citing a need to look further into the case.
On Wednesday, August 8, Hauler again stayed Osborn’s sentence. Hauler claimed he postponed the sentence for a second time in order to take a longer look at state sentencing guidelines.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch equated Hauler’s latest move as essentially “suspending the entire 10-year prison term.”
Here’s what you need to know about Judge T.J. Hauler:
1. Judge T.J. Hauler Stayed the Sentence of Convicted Rapist Logan Michael Osborn in January
Judge Hauler sentenced Osborn to 10 years in prison (the maximum penalty) after Osborn pled guilty to carnal knowledge with a 14-year-old girl after a school play in April 2017. Osborn’s guilty plea stemmed from an incident on school property in which he led the girl to the woods and bound her hands and neck with a belt. He then forced her to perform a sex act on him.
Hauler suspended eight of the years right out of the gate and then proceeded to stay the two years that Osborn was ordered to serve in prison.
After telling Osborn that he required more time to examine the case, Hauler said, “I will decide then how much of the two years you will actually serve.” Hauler ordered Osborn to return to court in six months to learn his decision on Osborn’s punishment.
2. Hauler Stayed Osborn’s Sentence for a Second Time on August 8
Osborn appeared back in court Wednesday, but again, Hauler postponed Osborn’s prison term. His reasoning this time was to look closer at state sentencing guidelines.
State sentencing guidelines, according to the Times-Dispatch, recommended probation, not prison time, for Osborn. As Osborn has previously been accused of sexual misconduct six times, prosecutors claimed that the guidelines didn’t match up with Osborn’s history. A clinical psychologists tested Osborn and said that he would be at “moderately high risk” for reoffending based on the test results.
Hauler expressed his desire “to hear some positive things” when Osborn’s defense attorney Todd Stone offered new evidence to the case on Wednesday.
By the end of the hearing, Hauler decided that he needed even more time to examine the case. A new court date was not immediately available, but the Times-Dispatch believes the latest staying of Osborn’s sentence could mean that he will never actually serve time for his crimes. So far, the only punishment Osborn has received has been the requirement to register as a sex offender.
3. Hauler Previously Allowed a Convicted Rapist to Leave Prison & the Man Went on to Kill His Ex-Wife’s Parents
This isn’t the first time Hauler has caused controversy with his rulings. In 2015, the Virginia Attorney General’s Office tried to civilly commit an inmate, Dana William, as his sentence was about to end. William had served less than two years in prison for raping his ex-girlfriend. The state introduce new evidence that tied him to a pair of untried sexual assault cases and a clinical psychiatrist deemed William a violent sexual predator.
Despite the state’s recommendation, Hauler determined that the state didn’t adequately present William as a further danger to society. Hauler turned down the state’s recommendation, William was released.
In January 2016, William strangled Woodell Brooks, his ex-wife’s father, to death and kidnapped her mother, Olene Brooks. He took his own life as police zeroed in on capturing him. Olene’s body was found the following month on the side of the road.
Sheila Smith, the daughter of Woodell and Olene, said, “I hope he [Hauler] knows what a horrible decision he made.”
At the time of the murders, the Attorney General was busy working on appeal of Hauler’s decision, to be heard by the Virginia Supreme Court.
4. Hauler has Received Harsh Criticism From Both Politicians & Clerks for the Way He Handles His Courtroom & Sentences
State senator Stephen Martin (R) vocally expressed his desire to have Hauler removed from the court in 2009. Martin cited a high overturn rate and had this to say to WTVR: “I had serious concerns and did some research and felt like it was best that he not continue on the bench.”
At the time, Hauler was known to have and use a noisemaker “That was easy!” button in court, presumably after delivering verdicts.
Martin’s attempt to remove Hauler from his circuit judge position didn’t work. The Senate Justice Subcommittee voted unanimously in Hauler’s favor.
Opposition to Hauler is nothing new, though. Judy Worthington, a circuit court clerk, filed a complaint to the General Assembly’s court committee about Hauler’s work as a judge in 2001. According to the Times-Dispatch, she referred to his court as “dysfunctional” and described Hauler as “impatient, vindictive, ill-mannered and publicly profane.”
Hauler, in turn, filed a $5.35 million defamation lawsuit against Worthington. Hauler received $389,000 in a settlement before the case went to trial.
Controversial decisions surrounding Hauler are hard to come by prior to 2001. Hauler has been the Chesterfield Circuit Court judge since 1993 when Senate Democrats appointed him.
5. Hauler’s Decision to Stay Osborn’s Sentence for a Second Time has Been Met With Criticism on Social Media