The Associated Press by Juan A. Lozano - February 22, 2009
HOUSTON – When U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent enters a courtroom on Monday, he'll be making history, but not the good kind. Kent will join the handful of U.S. federal judges who have been a defendant, and he is the first charged with a sex crime. The judge, 59, is accused of fondling two female court employees as he tried to force them into sex acts. Jury selection in his trial is set to begin Monday. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Kent has pleaded innocent to the six charges – five related to federal sex crimes and one for obstructing justice for allegedly lying to an investigative committee. A gag order in the case has prevented prosecutors, defense attorneys and others connected to the case from commenting.
During a court hearing last week, Dick DeGuerin, Kent's attorney, said his client wants to testify. "Judge Kent believes his conduct with both of the [women] was mutual and consensual," said DeGuerin, who has represented such high-profile clients as former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. Kent's former case manager, Cathy McBroom, filed a complaint against Kent in May 2007 and the Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals began an investigation. The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but McBroom's attorney and her family have used her name in publicly discussing the case. The other woman was identified in court last week as Kent's former secretary.
McBroom accused Kent of harassing her over a four-year period, culminating in March 2007, when she said the judge pulled up her blouse and bra and tried to escalate contact until they were interrupted. DeGuerin has said Kent and his secretary were involved in a longtime affair and she is one of his "staunchest supporters." But DeGuerin has also indicated he plans to call several expert witnesses who will testify they have been treating Kent for impotence since 1999. If convicted, Kent, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, would likely face impeachment by Congress. The last federal judge indicted was Robert F. Collins, in February 1991, for scheming with a New Orleans businessman to split a drug smuggler's $100,000 payoff. He was convicted and sentenced later that year to nearly seven years in prison.