U.S. Judge in Texas Gets 33 Months in Prison in Sex Abuse Case

By Michael Graczyk
Associated Press
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

HOUSTON, May 11 -- A federal judge was sentenced Monday to nearly three years in prison for lying to investigators about sexually abusing two female employees, who said they feared him so much that they hid from him in the courthouse.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent stared at the floor while the women described years of harassment and abuse at the Galveston courthouse, where he wielded great authority as the only federal judge. He apologized to his wife, his family and the court staff but never specifically referred to the two women.

Kent also was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $6,550 in restitution to the secretary and the case manager, whose complaints resulted in the first sex abuse case ever against a sitting federal judge.

"Your wrongful conduct is a huge black X, a smear on the legal profession, a stain on the judicial system itself, a matter of concern in the federal courts," said U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, a senior judge called in from Pensacola, Fla.

Vinson ordered Kent, 59, to serve three years of probation once his 33-month sentence is completed, and to participate in an alcohol-abuse program while in prison.

Kent's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, described his client as an alcoholic. DeGuerin has said the judge was retiring from the bench because of a disability -- which would allow him to keep receiving his $169,300-a-year salary. Retired federal judges collect their full salaries for the remainder of their lives; judges who resign get nothing.

That did not satisfy the leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), who demanded Monday that Kent resign immediately or face possible impeachment.

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