Judicial council reopens investigation on Kent after additional charges filed

Marilyn Tennissen Jan. 15, 2009, 5:13am

New criminal charges against U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent has prompted the 5th Circuit judicial council to reopen its judicial misconduct investigation against the Houston judge.

Kent had already been indicted in August for sexually abusing a federal court employee. A new indictment issued Jan. 6 added three additional charges to his case, including allegations of sexual abuse by a second courthouse employee and an obstruction-of-justice charge.

In its order, the judicial council said it will pursue its investigation once Kent's upcoming criminal trial concludes, regardless of the trial's outcome.

Kent's trial stemming from the original charges was to begin on Jan. 26, but presidng judge U.S. Senior Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola, Fla., reset the trial date to Feb. 23.

On Jan. 6, the same grand jury that indicted Kent in August indicted him on new charges that he had abusive sexual contact and committed aggravated sexual abuse of another female employee and that he obstructed justice by lying to a federal judicial panel investigating his alleged sexual misconduct in 2007.

In the order, Judge Edith Jones, chief judge of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, wrote that the council's investigation will now focus on "new allegations of additional serious misconduct" of which the council and its investigating committee were "unaware" as well as any supplemental investigation needed on the original complaints.

She wrote that the judicial council will "take such additional steps as are necessary to impose further sanctions in light of the result of the investigation."

Kent plans to argue that he is innocent of all charges, based on his plea and statements by defense attorney Dick DeGuerin.

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