Kent resigns, but buys time with distant effective date

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 3, 2009, 5:15pm


Convicted felon Samuel Kent agreed to resign from the federal bench – but not until 2010, assuring his retirement salary for another year while he sits in jail and Congress deals with his impeachment.

Hearings in the House Judiciary Committee Task Force on Impeachment began June 3 regarding U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent, who was convicted of obstruction of justice.

The charges stemmed from sexual assault allegations against the federal judge by members of his courthouse staff.

He is set to begin a 33-month sentence on June 15.

Kent has retired, but has not resigned his position. Unless he resigns or is impeached by Congress, he will continue to draw his retirement salary.

The articles of impeachment start in the House and the Senate holds an impeachment trial.

His attorney, Houston's Dick DeGuerin, says Kent submitted a letter to President Barack Obama on June 2, giving notice that he is resigning his position as a district judge effective June 1, 2010.

According to the Houston Chronicle, DeGuerin said the 2010 effective date is based on the length of time it will likely take Congress to "go through all the motions for impeachment."

He added that his client has no plans to attend the House hearings regarding his impeachment, calling the proceedings a "spectacle."

DeGuerin says Kent decided to resign "to try to save the embarrassment that these useless hearings would have. That's embarrassing for the judicial system as well as everybody involved."

However, according to an article in Texas Lawyer, officials with the House Judiciary Committee say Kent's impeachment will be swift.

Kent's former case manager claimed the judge sexually attacked her in 2003 and 2007, but a judicial council gave Kent only a reprimand for sexual harassment. A long-time secretary also came forward with allegations that she had been repeatedly attacked by Kent.

The judge was then indicted on felony sexual assault charges and obstruction of justice. He later pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge and admitted he tried to force the women into sex.

Last month, Kent tried to blame his behavior on mental illness and alcoholism in an attempt to gain disability status. Disability status would have allowed him to receive his full $174,000 annual retirement salary.

A judicial council denied his request on May 27.

Kent, 59, was appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and was the sole district federal judge in Galveston for many years before being transferred to Houston.

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