Monday, February 23, 2009

Galveston federal judge pleads guilty, retires in disgrace

I've not been tracking the downfall of allegedly lecherous federal district Judge Samuel Kent of Galveston, who today pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges and announced his retirement. But Mary Flood at the Houston Chronicle brings the news that:

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?"


Carol said...

He RETIRED from the bench??
So, regardless of his crime, he is entitled to collect RETIREMENT?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I wondered about that, too.

I just checked the article again and Mary added this line at the end of the original piece that sheds a bit more light on the retirement issue:

"It also is possible, if not likely, that the Congress will now look at impeaching Kent to take him off the federal payroll and retirement package he gets as a federal judge. Yates said he expects Congress to act on this very quickly."

Anonymous said...

Pleading to obstruction makes his impeachment a done deal.

In a similar type of case, former Civil County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Gary Block resigned a day before his term ended after being sued for similar acts. As part of his deal he was not disciplined, but he also agreed not to serve as a visiting judge and gave up his retirement.

I guess the feds didn't build that into their plea agreement--idiots.

TxBluesMan said...

Texas Lawyer has an article on this that sheds some light on the issues.

First, Kent does not have enough time and age in to be able to take a normal retirement, which is probably why the prosecutors didn't address that. He is 59 years old with 19 years on the bench. To retire, he has to have 15 years of service AND his age plus his service have to add up to 80 (so he is one year short - the additional year would have put him at 60 with 20 years which equal 80).

He is going to apply for medical disability, brought on by the "stress" of the case. If granted, he could get an additional year in, then retire normally.

The plea agreement indicates he will face up to 3 years in prison.

Rep James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis) plans to file a bill of impeachment to prevent Kent from drawing retirement. In addition, Kent faces likely disbarment.

It looks like he will get what is appropriate for his crimes.

Anonymous said...

I had a case before kent in 1999 or so. He handled it much like a slaver would a plantation.
Lawyers in Galveston were afraid of him. He was ugly in his ways - and likely still is.