Kent pleads not guilty to sex crimes before Houston judge

Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 3, 2008, 4:30pm

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent

HOUSTON -- U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent found himself on the other side of the bench Sept. 3 as he pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual abuse of a female employee before another federal judge in Houston.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Kent was indicted by a grand jury last week on charges of abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a female employee, making him the first federal judge to be charged with federal sex crimes.

He faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"I plead absolutely, unequivocally not guilty and look very much forward to a trial on the merits of what I consider flagrant, scurrilous charges," Kent told U.S. 5th Circuit Judge Edward Prado.

"For the record I absolutely intend to testify, and we are going to bring a horde of witnesses," Kent was quoted by the Chronicle as saying.

The federal criminal investigation began in November after Kent's former case manager, Cathy McBroom, complained that the judge physically touched her under her clothing twice and often made obscene suggestions during the six years she worked for him. He is charged with abusing McBroom in 2003 and 2007.

Kent was appointed to the federal bench for life by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. He first gained notoriety in Galveston where he handled the maritime docket. He was later moved from Galveston to a court assignment in Houston.

In court, Kent, represented by high profile Houston attorney Dick DeGuerin, told the judge that the 2003 charge should be dismissed because it was filed past the statute of limitations.

The Houston newspaper reported that during Kent's initial court appearance and arraignment, court personnel who have been working in the same courthouse with Kent were friendly and that Kent, DeGuerin and Prado exchanged jokes.

Prado reportedly said things such as "You pretty well know the routine," and "As you know, you have the right to remain silent."

Kent was released on his own recognizance and left down a back private elevator to his chambers in the same courthouse. He will continue working.

"The charges are false. We will fight them," DeGuerin said. "There will be no deals. We're going to trial."

Prosecutor Peter Ainsworth, from Washington D.C., said he would not comment on the case at this time.

DeGuerin told the Chronicle that Kent and McBroom did not have a sexual relationship but "they did have a flirty, close relationship" and there are many witnesses to show that. DeGuerin said McBroom lied about the judge's actions to keep from getting fired.

According to the article, Prado said on the bench that he does not expect to hear the Kent case in the future. He said high level jurists in Washington, D.C. will assign the case and are seeking a judge from outside the 5th Circuit.

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