U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice today and retired from the bench, avoiding a trial on that charge and five others accusing him of sexually abusing two female employees.
Kent was scheduled to see a jury selected this morning for his trial on all six felony counts.
Few federal judges ever go to trial, but his would have been the first in which a federal judge was accused of sexual charges.
``Judge Kent believes that this settlement is in the best interest of all involved,'' his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, said after this morning's hearing.
``A trial would have been long, embarrassing and difficult for all involved,'' DeGuerin added.
Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson has imposed a gag order on those involved in the case, but allowed DeGuerin to make his statement to the news media.
Kent, who normally speaks in loud, clear tones, all but whispered his guilty plea at the bench. The court reporter strained to hear what he said.
Kent, 59, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and was the sole district federal judge in Galveston in most of the ensuing years.
This was a disgraceful episode for the federal courts and another black eye for Texas justice. As far as I'm concerned, good riddance to bad rubbish.
MORE: Doc Berman at Sentencing Law & Policy identifies the key issues regarding Judge Kent's sentencing, including, "is the gag order on the victims consistent with the federal Crime Victims Rights Act?"