AUGUST 29, 2008
A federal judge in Texas, under investigation for inappropriate drinking and socializing with attorneys that argue before him, became the nation’s first federal judge to be indicted for sexual abuse this week.
The embattled jurist, U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, has served on the federal bench in Galveston since George H.W. Bush appointed him in 1990 but his career has been marred with controversy and federal investigations. He admitted to a local newspaper that he has a drinking problem and sometimes drinks during the work day and he has a reputation for being dangerously close to attorneys with cases before him.
Last September the Judicial Council of the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals suspended Judge Kent for four months (he still collected his $165,000 annual salary) after his longtime case manager filed a second sexual harassment complaint claiming the judge made aggressive, unwanted advances and used inappropriate profanity. This week a grand jury indicted him for abusive sexual conduct and attempted sexual abuse.
The three-page indictment offers graphic details of the judge’s inappropriate behavior and accuses him of knowingly engaging in sexual contact with another person without that person’s permission. His intent, according to the indictment, was to “abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade and arouse and gratify……”
Kent’s problems are not limited to the sexual misconduct case, however. The FBI is also investigating him for possible crimes involving inappropriate relationships with attorneys that may have received favorable treatment in his court room. One news report says federal agents have been interviewing Galveston restaurateurs about who the judge had dined and drank with throughout the years and who picked up the tab.
Federal judges are appointed to the bench for life and only Congress can remove them through impeachment, which has only happened a handful of times in U.S. history. Among the best known impeached federal judges is a Democrat Florida congressman (Alcee Hastings) booted for soliciting a bribe in exchange for favorable treatment for a defendant in a racketeering case before him. That didn’t stop Hillary Clinton from making him a co chair of her failed presidential campaign, however.
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