Monday, February 23, 2009

Bad Judge?

A sad ending potentially to an otherwise distinguished legal career.

Judge's sex crimes trial will be a first
By Juan A. Lozano - Associated Press writer

HOUSTON — When U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent enters a courtroom Monday, he'll be making judicial history. But it won't be the kind he'll want to remember.
Kent will join the handful of U.S. federal judges who have taken part in a trial as a defendant, and the first charged with a sex crime.

The 59-year-old Kent is accused of fondling two female court employees as he tried to force himself on the women and have them perform sex acts.
Jury selection is set to begin today. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Kent has pleaded not guilty to the six charges — five related to federal sex crimes and one related to obstructing justice, in which he is accused of lying to an investigative committee.
A gag order in the case prevents prosecutors, defense attorneys and others connected to the case from commenting.

During a court hearing last week in which he unsuccessfully tried to have the obstruction charge thrown out or severed, Dick DeGuerin, Kent's attorney, said his client wanted to testify at trial.
“Judge Kent believes his conduct with both of the (women) was mutual and consensual,” DeGuerin said.

Kent's former case manager, Cathy McBroom, filed a complaint in May 2007 and the Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals began an investigation. The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but McBroom's attorney and her family have used her name in publicly discussing the case. The other woman was identified in court last week as Kent's former secretary.

McBroom accused Kent of harassing her over a four-year period, culminating in March 2007, when she said the judge pulled up her blouse and bra and tried to escalate contact until they were interrupted.

The judicial council suspended Kent in September 2007 for four months with pay but didn't detail the allegations against him. It also transferred him 50 miles northwest from Galveston, where he had worked since being appointed in 1990, to Houston.

A Justice Department investigation of McBroom's claims led to Kent's August indictment on three federal sex charges.

Last month, prosecutors added two more sex charges and the obstruction charge, accusing Kent of trying to engage his former secretary in a sex act and then lying about it to the judicial council.
DeGuerin has said Kent and his secretary were involved in a longtime affair and that she is one of his “staunchest supporters.” DeGuerin said Kent didn't mention the incident to the judicial council out of the concern a “gentleman” would have for keeping the affair a secret.
If convicted, Kent, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, would likely face impeachment by Congress.