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JUDGE WATCH: Galveston Judge Samuel Kent Still Set for Trial on Jan 26 But With Big New Charges

Okay – here’s an update to an October 2008 post, and once again, I cannot make this stuff up.

It all began when the first federal district judge in our nation’s history got indicted last year for sex crimes. And, sure – of course, it had to be some judge in Texas. Geez.

So, right now, over in the Houston federal courthouse, you’ve got District Judge Samuel Kent working away after being transferred to Houston from his longtime bench in Galveston after becoming this infamous, indicted judge. And, down the hall, you’ve got the very same District Judge Samuel Kent facing trial later this month for these various sex crimes.

Yep, in the very same courthouse.

And, if that weren’t bizarre enough for you — last Friday, Judge Kent got three new charges added to his indictment which brought in a second female court employee alleging that Judge Kent had performed acts that amount to aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact. Also added, an obstruction of justice charge.

It’s reported that his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, says that these new charges aren’t true but he can’t say more than that, because there is a gag order in place.

The allegations are serious…

Gag order or not, the details of what Judge Kent allegedly did to the two women is being reported in the media (see sources, below, if you want to read all about it). Judge Kent has admitted to a single spurned kiss; the two women are claiming much more than that happened over a period of years.

This new Obstruction charge is a big deal.

Judge Kent can thank Enron and Martha Stewart for this new Obstruction of Justice charge. It’s proven itself to be a powerful and successful tool in the prosecution’s belt.

By adding this new spin to the indictment, Judge Kent not only has to defend against what two women are saying he did, but he’s got to face off against investigators and the like, who are going to tell a jury that Kent lied to them about things, thwarting their efforts.

As Martha can tell you, under an obstruction charge, you don’t have to be guilty of the crime being investigated to be guilty of obstruction. And you still face a significant punishment: on obstruction alone, Judge Kent could face 20 years imprisonment – and that’s before you begin to consider the ramifications to his legal career.

Charging Obstruction of Justice is Dangerous to Justice

Charging obstruction is a scary thing — regardless of how horrid the alleged conduct might be, having grand juries tack these charges onto indictments is getting to be pretty Big Brother-y for some: you’ve got the constitutional right not to incriminate yourself, but absent taking the 5th how much leeway does a defendant having these days in dealing with the legal authorities?

Creating criminal liability where there wasn’t any beforehand is a danger to justice, and something we all need to be watching, as many scholars are warning against prosecutors’ “creative interpretation” of the obstruction statutes.

Just something to ponder, regardless of how you feel about Ol’ Sam Kent.

What’s next?

Last anyone has reported, this case is still going to trial on January 26th. That’s 14 days from now.

Meanwhile, Judge Kent is out on his own recognizance — so when trial begins, he can just take the same morning route to the courthouse he’s been taking everyday for over a year now and park in the same parking spot.

Sources:

Abilene Reporter News
(Details on Allegations)
http://www.reporternews.com/news/2009/jan/07/texas-judge-pleads-innocent-to-new-sex-charges/

Houston Chronicle
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6199838.html

The Federalist Society
http://www.fed-soc.org/publications/pubid.1037/pub_detail.asp

United States District Court Judges Roster — Southern District of Texas
http://www.txs.uscourts.gov/district/judges/

Dallas Criminal Lawyer Blog – October 2008
http://dallaslawyer.blogspot.com/2008/10/judge-watch-galveston-federal-judge-sam.html


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