- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 20, 2009

In a unanimous vote, the House of Representatives decided Friday to impeach disgraced U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent, a dubious distinction the imprisoned Texas jurist shares with just 13 other federal judges in American history.

Kent, who is serving a 33-month sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and admitting to sexual assaults on two female court employees, now faces a Senate trial to remove him from office.

The House voted overwhelmingly in favor of each of four articles of impeachment. No members spoke in support of Kent, and no one voted against the four articles of impeachment.

The rare impeachment proceeding - the House has impeached just 18 federal officials in more than 200 years, including two presidents, a senator and a Cabinet officer - is the only way to forcibly end Kent’s lifetime appointment to the bench and revoke the $174,000 annual salary he continues to pocket, even while incarcerated.

The 60-year-old judge wrote in a letter to President Obama that he will resign June 1, 2010. In the meantime, he still would collect about $375 a day in salary.

The judge has blamed his misconduct on personal tragedies such as the death of his first wife, alcoholism and possible mental illness.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said the judge’s refusal to resign immediately was a “continued abuse of power and exploitation of American taxpayers.”

“Every day that Judge Kent remains on the bench is one day too long,” he said.

A federal official had not been impeached since President Clinton in 1998.

Mr. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate on the perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges that stemmed from his testimony about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The House last impeached a federal judge 20 years ago when Walter Nixon was ultimately removed as chief judge for the Southern District of Mississippi. He lied to a grand jury about helping get drug charges dropped against a business partner’s son.

A year earlier, in 1988, the House impeached and the Senate removed Alcee Hastings from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. He was impeached for bribery and perjury, though he was acquitted on criminal charges.

He later successfully ran for a House seat from Florida and is currently in his ninth term.

The 13 federal judges previously impeached included seven who were removed from the bench, four who were acquitted by the Senate and two who resigned prior to a Senate trial.

The first two articles against Kent dealt with charges he sexually molested a case worker and a secretary in his Galveston chambers. The other two articles dealt with false statements the judge made to the FBI and to a federal appeals court committee investigating the two female employees’ complaints.

The victims described to a House impeachment task force earlier this month how powerless they felt to fight off Kent’s repeated sexual attacks. They said the judge, often intoxicated, would force kisses upon them, pull at their clothes, and grope and fondle them.

“He also told me that he was the government,” one of the victims said. “He would make statements routinely: ‘I am the government, I’m the Lion King. It’s good to be king. I’m the emperor of Galveston, the man wearing the horned hat guiding the ship.’ ”

Kent reported Monday to begin serving his prison sentence at the Devens Federal Medical Center in Ayer, Mass. The prison provides treatment for inmates and was requested by Kent to address his alcoholism and other personal problems.

He could be released as early as November 2011 with good behavior.

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