Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg asks whether U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent is getting off easy in pleading guilty to an obstruction of justice charge in a case involving allegations that he sexually abused his former case manager. The longtime federal judge in Galveston wasn't forced to articulate his crime, as is common practice in federal court in Houston. The outcome “leaves no assurances that justice has been, or will be, done,” Falkenberg says.
As part of the plea deal, prosecutors are dropping all five sexual abuse charges, for which, if convicted, he may have been required to register as a sex offender. In what Falkenberg calls “the most outrageous concession, prosecutors apparently allowed the federal judge to end his lifetime appointment by retiring instead of forcing him to resign. That may allow Kent to stay on the payroll even after he's left the bench.” If Kent can prove his retiring because of a disability, he can stay on the government dole the rest of his life. Kent says he has been treated for diabetes and psychiatric and psychological problems for the past three years.