House impeaches Texas judge accused of sex crimes

Judge Samuel Kent was the first federal judge to be charged with sexual crimes while in office.
The House of Representatives voted Friday to impeach a federal judge convicted of obstruction of justice while in office.

U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of Texas pleaded guilty in February, admitting he lied to investigators about nonconsensual sexual contact with two employees in his courthouse. As part of a plea agreement, other counts alleging sexual misconduct were dropped. Kent was the first federal judge to be charged with sexual crimes while in office. He has submitted his resignation, but made it effective June 1, 2010, meaning he would be paid for a year while in prison. That drew a heated response among some members of Congress, and a House Judiciary Committee task force unanimously approved four articles of impeachment against Kent on the grounds of sexual assault, obstruction of justice and providing false statements to federal investigators. Before the House vote, Judiciary Committee member Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, said to House members that Kent collecting a salary of about $174,000 while in prison constituted “an attempt to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from the American people.” There were no dissenting votes. The decision on whether to convict Kent will be made by the Senate. A conviction would mean he would lose his seat on the federal bench and his pension.

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Read Kent’s letter to the task force (PDF)

Kent, who turns 60 this month, was sentenced in May to 33 months in prison and began serving the sentence Monday. He was ordered to undergo treatment for alcoholism while in prison. An attempt to reach Kent’s attorney for comment was unsuccessful Friday afternoon. President George H.W. Bush nominated Kent, who took his seat on the bench of the Southern District of Texas on October 1, 1990. Kent is the 14th federal judge to be impeached by the House. The last impeachment — on charges of lying to a federal grand jury — was of Mississippi Judge Walter Nixon in 1989.