JANUARY 07, 2009
A federal judge twice indicted with separate crimes and previously reprimanded by his circuit’s Judicial Council continues to sit on the bench in Texas despite his serious legal troubles.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, the first federal jurist indicted on sex crimes, was even suspended by the Judicial Council of the Fifth Circuit for a few months, although he never stopped collecting his hefty taxpayer-funded salary.
The veteran judge, whose career has been marred with controversy and federal investigations, was first charged with abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a female employee (his former case manager) in August. He is scheduled to be tried on those charges early this year and if convicted faces a lengthy prison sentence as well as a hefty fine.
This week, a Houston grand jury indicted him on three additional charges—aggravated sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact and obstruction of justice— involving a separate female court employee. Federal prosecutors accuse Judge Kent of forcing the second court employee to repeatedly “engage in a sexual act.”
The scandal-plagued jurist is scheduled to appear in court this week to address the new charges. The crimes were supposedly committed in Galveston, where Kent presided for nearly two decades. As a punishment, he was transferred to Houston in late October and isn’t allowed to handle criminal matters involving the Department of Justice, which is prosecuting him, or sexual harassment cases since he’s a defendant in two big ones.
Kent’s problems are not limited to his sexual misconduct cases, 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.
If Kent seems untouchable, it’s because 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. George H.W. Bush appointed Kent in 1990.
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