33-Month Sentence for Federal Judge Samuel Kent in Obstruction Case
Posted May 11, 2009 10:41 AM CDT
By Martha Neil
Samuel Kent could have gotten up to 20 years in prison today, after pleading guilty earlier this year to a federal obstruction of justice charge.
But prosecutors recommended only a three-year prison term for the 59-year-old Kent. And he got slightly less than that from Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, who was brought in from Florida to hear the Houston-based case. Vinson, who wasn't bound by the government's three-year recommendation, sentenced Kent to 33 months in prison, according to the Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle.
Kent, who had been on the bench since 1990, pleaded in February to the obstruction charge. It was related to his admitted nonconsensual sexual contact between 2003 and 2007 with two female court employees while he was a sitting federal district court judge. At last report, Kent was planning to retire early due to an undisclosed disability.
Vinson faced a tough decision about the sentence, which will undoubtedly be scrutinized, law professor Arthur Hellman of the University of Pittsburgh tells the newspaper.
“It is important because it implicates the ability of the judiciary to police itself,” Hellman says. “If the sentence is substantially below the three years specified in the plea bargain, some people will say that the judge is going easy on a fellow judge. If the sentence is especially harsh, it will seem that Judge Kent is being made an example because of his position.”
Although he is no longer hearing cases, Kent continues to be paid his $174,000-a-year salary, which will continue, under his lifetime appointment, until he resigns or is impeached, the newspaper reports.
ABAJournal.com: "Judge Kent Pleads Guilty to Obstruction"
ABAJournal.com: "Wife’s Death Put Judge Kent in Downward Spiral, His Lawyer Says"
ABAJournal.com: "Chronicle: Cry Us a River—And Punish Judge Kent By Axing His Pension"
Last updated at 1:14 p.m. to include information about Kent's current status.