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Gag Order Implies Private Hearings for Federal Judge in Sex Abuse Case

Posted Sep 8, 2008 2:52 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A gag order has been issued by a federal judge who has been brought in from Florida to hear the criminal case against U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas, who is accused of sexually abusing his former case manager.

The unusual order, which was issued late Friday by Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola, prohibits media interviews, directly or indirectly, by parties, attorneys and court personnel that "could interfere with a fair trial or prejudice Kent, the prosecutors or the administration of public justice," reports the Houston Chronicle.

It appears from the order that Vinson may plan to hold nonpublic hearings in the case: The order also states that "divulgence of information concerning arguments and hearings held in chambers or otherwise outside the presence of the public" is prohibited, the newspaper reports.

Vinson issued the order on his own, without being requested to do so by the prosecution or defense, according to the article. It says the order allows all concerned to relay scheduling information, public court opinions, other public record information and state the general nature of the case, but forbids them from elaborating on it.

The judge said that extensive media coverage and a demonstrated willingness on the part of the defendant, the alleged victim and prosecutors to manipulate media coverage required the gag, the Chronicle states.

"Kent was indicted by a grand jury on charges of abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a female employee, making him the first federal judge to be charged with federal sex crimes," the Chronicle writes. "The maximum penalty is life in prison and a $250,000 fine."

At last report, Kent planned to remain on the bench and continue hearing cases as his criminal case proceeds, an earlier Chronicle article notes.

Related coverage:

Texas Lawyer: "His Honor: For a Defiant Judge Samuel B. Kent, the Best Defense Is a Good Offense"

Tex Parte Lawyer Blog (Texas Lawyer): "New judge appointed to oversee federal criminal case against Judge Sam Kent"

ABAJournal.com: "Federal Judge Pleads ‘Absolutely, Unequivocally Not Guilty’"

ABAJournal.com: "Judge’s Indictment Raises Questions About Discipline Process"

ABAJournal.com: "Federal Judge in Texas is Indicted in Employee Sex Abuse Case:"

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