Thursday, February 26, 2009

Old Judges Don't Just Fade Away, They Loose Their Appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge Pleads Guilty to Obstruction of Justice
WASHINGTON – U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent pleaded guilty today to obstruction of justice in federal court in Houston, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin and Andrew R. Bland III, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Houston office announced.

Kent, 59, a district judge in the Southern District of Texas, pleaded guilty to making false statements to a special investigative committee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit during an investigation of a judicial misconduct complaint filed against him. Kent’s guilty plea was accepted by the Hon. Roger Vinson, Senior U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Florida, who was sitting by designation in the Southern District of Texas.

A grand jury in the Southern District of Texas indicted Kent in August 2008 on two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse for his alleged repeated assaults on an employee of the Office of the Clerk of Court, identified as Person A. In January 2009, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Kent, maintaining the original charges and adding one count each of abusive sexual contact and aggravated sexual abuse for Kent’s alleged repeated assaults on another U.S. District Court employee, identified as Person B. The January 2009 superseding indictment also added one count of obstruction of justice, alleging Kent obstructed an investigation into a misconduct complaint filed by Person A.

As part of his plea, Kent admitted that in both 2003 and 2007, he engaged in non-consensual sexual contact with Person A. He also admitted that he engaged in non-consensual contact with Person B from 2004 through at least 2005. According to court documents, when Person A filed a misconduct complaint against Kent, the Fifth Circuit appointed a committee to investigate whether Kent had engaged in unwanted sexual contact with Person A or any other individuals. Kent admitted that when he appeared before the committee in June 2007, he falsely testified about his conduct with Person B.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 11, 2009.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy Chief Peter J. Ainsworth and Trial Attorneys John P. Pearson and AnnaLou T. Tirol of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Section Chief William M. Welch II. The case was investigated by the FBI.
Monday, February 23, 2009
(202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888

(ABA Journal. 23 Feb 2009)
U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a plea deal that avoids a trial scheduled to begin today.

The plea resolves five other charges of aggravated sexual abuse based on allegations Kent fondled two court employees, the Houston Chronicle reports. The obstruction charge is based on accusations Kent lied in a court internal probe of sexual abuse allegations. The government is seeking a three-year prison term when Kent is sentenced on May 11, although the charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, Texas Lawyer reports.

Kent’s lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, says his client intends to retire from the bench, the Texas Lawyer story says.

DeGuerin said last week that his client’s contact with the women was consensual, and he was merely trying to protect one of the women when he lied in the court investigation.

Kent usually speaks loudly and clearly, but he nearly whispered his guilty plea today, the Chronicle says.

After the court hearing, DeGuerin read a statement to reporters, according to the Chronicle report. "A trial would have been long, embarrassing and difficult for all involved,'' he said.

Legal experts have said prosecutors upped the ante when they charged Kent under a section of the obstruction law that was strengthened after the collapse of Enron. "It's the Martha Stewart case," said New York University law professor Stephen Gillers in an interview with the Houston Chronicle last month. "You can prove obstruction sometimes even when there is no underlying crime

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