JUNE 23, 2009
An imprisoned federal judge who continues collecting his salary from jail has become the first in two decades—and only the 14th in history—to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Last month the disgraced Texas judge, Samuel Kent, was sentenced to nearly three years in prison for obstructing an investigation into charges that he sexually assaulted two female employees. Kent had already made history as the first federal jurist to be indicted with sex crimes, specifically aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact.
To avoid a lengthy prison sentence, Kent, appointed to the federal bench by George H.W. Bush in 1990, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice as jury selection for his sex crimes trial was about to begin earlier this year. He was sentenced to 33 months in jail and ordered to pay restitution to the women he harassed.
But none of this represents a disruption in Kent’s lucrative public salary. Even when there is a criminal conviction, federal judges must resign or get impeached by Congress to stop receiving their taxpayer-funded paycheck. Last month Kent agreed to resign, but he made the effective date June 2010 so that he can continue getting his $174,000 annual salary in jail.
In an effort to stop it, the House unanimously approved four articles of impeachment against Kent, making him the first in 20 years to be impeached. It took House lawmakers only 30 minutes to reach the decision, sending the case to the U.S. Senate for trial to determine if Kent should be removed from the bench and stripped of his pension.
Among the lawmakers who voted to impeach Kent is a corrupt Florida Democrat (Jimmy Carter appointee Alcee Hastings) who was removed from the federal bench in 1988 for bribery and perjury. It didn’t stop his political career from thriving, however. Hastings is serving his ninth term in Congress and was handpicked by Hillary Clinton to be co-chair of her failed presidential campaign.
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