Kent reports to jail, impeachment process makes way through House

Marilyn Tennissen Jun. 18, 2009, 9:00am


Former federal judge Samuel Kent began an almost three-year prison term on June 15, while the U.S. House of Representatives cleared its calendar to consider Kent's impeachment.

Kent, who served as U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Texas, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in February for lying to investigators in connection with allegations he sexually assaulted two female employees at the Galveston federal courthouse. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison.

He checked in to the Devens Federal Medical Center, a 1,300-bed facility in Massachusetts that houses felons and treats ill or injured prisoners. Kent is seeking treatment for alcoholism and mental problems, which he claims contributed to his felony behavior.
Devens provides substance abuse and sex offender programs.

Kent,59, will complete orientation and a medical, psychological and social evaluation before he enters the prison's general population.

Kent, the first federal judge to enter prison since 1991, has refused to resign his post. He submitted a resignation letter, but made it effective in June 2010, thus allowing Kent to continue to receive his $174,000 annual salary.

In the meantime, the House has started impeachment proceedings. Since federal judges are appointed for life, the only way to remove them from office is by resignation or by impeachment by Congress.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved four articles of impeachment citing high crimes and misdemeanors.

The first two articles deal with Kent's admitted nonconsensual sexual contact with his former caseworker and secretary in his Galveston chambers.

Other articles reflect false statements Kent made to investigators, including the FBI and a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
As of press time June 18, the House had scheduled two hours of debate to precede a vote. A simple majority vote is needed to impeach Kent.

If impeached by the House, the matter goes to trial in the U.S. Senate. Removal from office would require a two-thirds majority Senate vote.

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