MAY 12, 2009
The disgraced Texas federal judge who made history as the first to be indicted with sex crimes will keep his $174,000 annual paycheck even though he has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for obstructing justice.
Unless the convicted veteran judge (Samuel Kent) resigns or gets impeached by Congress, there will be no disruption in his lucrative public salary despite his crimes. Appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Kent pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice earlier this year as jury selection for his sex crimes trial was about to begin. This week he was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution to the women he harassed.
As part of the plea, the judge also acknowledged that he had nonconsensual sexual contact with two female employees between 2003 and 2007. He had been charged with abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse of his former case manager and subsequently indicted by a Houston Grand Jury of three additional charges; aggravated sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact and obstruction of justice.
Before the sex-crimes indictment, Kent’s lengthy career had already been marred with controversy, federal investigations, multiple indictments and suspension by his circuit’s Judicial Council. The FBI also investigated him for possible crimes involving inappropriate relationships with attorneys that may have received favorable treatment in his court room.
Yet the scandal-plagued jurist seemed untouchable despite his deplorable behavior over the years. He could have been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for admitting that he obstructed justice yet got less than three. Now he’s fighting to keep his salary by claiming disability since he obviously can’t work from prison.
Federal judges who retire at 65 keep their full salaries for the remainder of their lives. However, if they resign before that age they get nothing unless they claim disability. Kent is 59 so he is going for the disability claim, which means Congress must step up to the plate and impeach him.
The last federal judge to be convicted of a crime was New Orleans’ Robert Collins in 1991 for scheming with a businessman to split a drug smuggler’s $100,000 payoff. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and resigned to avoid congressional impeachment hearings.
In the 1980s two federal judges in separate parts of the country were convicted of crimes and subsequently removed by Congress. Mississippi Judge Walter Nixon was sentenced to five years in prison for perjury involving a federal grand jury investigation of a drug smuggling case and Reno Judge Harry Claiborne was found guilty of tax evasion.
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