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A Cover-Up in the Judge Kent Case?

From the department of dubious achievements comes the news that U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas is now the first federal judge ever to be charged with federal sex crimes. The Houston Chronicle broke the news of the three-count indictment, which charges that the judge made unwanted sexual contact with his former case manager, Cathy McBroom. The federal criminal investigation was launched in November 2007, the Chronicle reports, after 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.

Kent's defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin is taking a different tack in this case than the too-small-to-matter defense he recently employed. Instead, he issued a statement yesterday asserting that the relationship between Kent and McBroom was "completely consensual" and that she complained only when she was "about to be fired." (Why do those office affairs always break down when one tries to fire the other?) DeGuerin goes on: "This is a classic swearing match between a woman who has motive to lie and a United States District Judge who has faithfully served the public for 18 years." A classic? Wouldn't that suggest we've seen the scenario many times before?

The intriguing circumstance about this case is that this is not the first we've heard of it. McBroom's allegations first surfaced in 2007 in the form of a judicial misconduct complaint against Kent. After appointing a special committee to investigate the complaint, the 5th Circuit Judicial Council issued a curt, three-page order in September 2007 reprimanding Kent and admonishing him that his behavior was inappropriate for a judge. The order was devoid of details but said that "appropriate remedial action had been and will be taken," citing Kent's four-month leave of absence from the bench and reallocation of his docket.

For Mike Cernovich at the blog Crime & Federalism, the 5th Circuit's reticence in this matter amounts to a cover-up.

The Fifth Circuit knew of the allegations that formed the basis of the Indictment. Yet what did the judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (led by "tough on crime" Edith Jones) do?

They issued a mere reprimand, did not make the details of his conduct public, and did not ask Congress to investigate further.  They were willing to let the case end at the reprimand.

Self-discipline must go.  What Judge Kent is accused of doing borders on rape.  Yet the Fifth Circuit wanted to pass upon the issue with a simple, "It's our little secret."

It is no one's secret when a judge breaks the law, Cernovich says. Fortunately, it is hardly commonplace, at least among federal judges. The Houston Chronicle says that this is only the sixth time in 30 years that a federal judge has been charged with a federal crime. As for Kent, he will surrender to authorities Wednesday for an initial court appearance.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 29, 2008 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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