WASHINGTON (CN) – A congressional task force considered Wednesday whether to impeach a federal judge who has been convicted of obstruction of justice in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct. He attempted “to gain penetration of my genitals with his hand,” the judge’s secretary for seven years told the task force.
Judge Samuel Kent of Galveston, Texas was sentenced in May to 33 months in prison plus a $1000 fine after he pled guilt in February to obstruction of justice. But members of Congress were not satisfied and are seeking his impeachment.
“We need to maintain the integrity of the bench,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat and member of the House Judiciary Committee.
The judge’s defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said the Congressional hearing amounts to nothing more than “sensationalism,” allowing members of Congress to beat an already defeated man with testimony that is “greatly exagerrated.”
Kent’s case manager, Cathy McBroom, said he began harassing her after she worked eight months in the court and was the first of the two women to file a complaint.
She testified about one incident where Kent had asked her to show him the workout room, which McBroom did. “I could tell he had been drinking,” she said. Once in the room, Kent grabbed her around the waste. “He actually did force his tongue inside my mouth,” she said, and detailed how he pulled up her blouse to expose her breasts. “Please don’t do this to me, please don’t,” McBroom pleaded. “If you don’t stop I’m going to have to scream.”
“Judge, the guards are right outside,” she warned. “They can hear us.” But Kent answered, “I don’t care who hears us.”
McBroom realized that no one would come to her rescue. She told of how he left, and how she sat down to cry. When she composed herself and left the room, she testified, the guards were gone. She assumed they didn’t want to be involved.
“He felt he had power and control over me,” to do anything he wanted to do to her, McBroom exclaimed.
During the investigation, Kent called the relationship “enthusiastically consensual.”
The story of Kent’s belligerence matches the testimony of 45-year-old Donna Wilkerson, who said Kent referred to himself as the government, “I am the government. I’m the Lion King. It’s good to be king.”
She said his abuse wasn’t just sexual, it was psychological. He would threaten her with killing himself. “You know they have me on suicide watch, right?” she said, quoting him. He even asked her to check his life insurance, she testified, to make sure it did not exclude suicide.
She described one incident where Kent came up behind her and reached down under her shirt, and even attempted “to gain penetration of my genitals with his hand.”
Wilkerson called him “everything a federal judge is not ever supposed to be.”
Both married women said while under oath that there were several occasions like this, and that they had been worried about losing their jobs if they complained. Wilkerson said it happened to her about twice a month.
As part of the plea agreement, the sexual misconduct charges were dropped and Kent pleaded guilt to obstruction of justice.
Under the law, impeachment is the responsibility of the House, and the trial is left to the Senate.
Members of the House seemed eager to impeach Kent because many worried he would continue to receive his $174,000 salary when he goes to prison June 15th.
Representatives were furious at a resignation letter Kent mailed to the President Barack Obama, in which he claimed he would resign on June 1st of next year. Committee members called it a trick to try to dissuade the Congress from taking up the impeachment.
Kent can withdraw his resignation letter at any time before June 1st and some members of the House thought he planned to do so. They called it an effort to delay congressional action and draw out the time Kent earns his salary.
Professor Arthur Hellman from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law also testified before the committee. “Judge Kent relied on his position of authority and control to coerce the employees of that court” to do sexual acts and to keep silent about it,” said Hellman.
He called Judge Kent “doubly unworthy” to fill the position of a federal judge because he not only committed sexual abuse, but lied about it.
Asked in a phone interview why the sexual misconduct charges are still relevant if they were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, Kent’s defense attorney DeGuerin, with the Houston firm of DeGuerin & Dixon, said the testimony is being used by members of congress for political posturing, and called it “sensationalism.”
He said there’s “no reason for it,” except to take advantage of someone who’s already been defeated. The testimony was “greatly exaggerated,” he said.
Before any follow up questions were asked, DeGuerin said “got to go” and hung up.