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Wife’s Death Put Judge Kent in Downward Spiral, His Lawyer Says

Posted Feb 27, 2009 2:56 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A federal district court judge in Texas who has pleaded guilty to obstruction and faces a likely prison sentence went into a downward spiral after the death of his first wife in 2000 from a brain tumor, his lawyer says.

For several years following her death, which ended a more than 30-year marriage, Judge Samuel Kent was “a walking basket case,” attorney Dick DeGuerin tells the Houston Chronicle. “He’s not the same man since his wife, Mary Ann, died a long and tragic death. He probably should have taken off a year and gotten psychological help."

And, despite his misconduct between 2003 and 2007, Kent deserves the federal pension to which he will be entitled if he retires on disability after serving for 18 years on the bench, according to DeGuerin. He also says he hopes the sentencing judge will consider the good Kent has done when deciding in May whether to impose the three-year prison term the government is recommending.

However, another Texas lawyer, Rusty Hardin, who represents a court worker mistreated by Kent, says the judge should consider as well the harm Kent has caused his client and others. “During those 18 years he claims to have served, it should also be noted that he made life miserable for a legion of litigants in his court,” Hardin contends.

Kent's guilty plea also included an admission to nonconsensual sexual contact with two court workers, including Hardin's client, although Kent did not plead guilty to the aggravated sexual abuse charges that preceded the obstruction count in the case.

As discussed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) is trying to prevent Kent from retiring with disability benefits, and has said he will seek to have Kent impeached if necessary.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Gag Order Lifted in Judge Kent Case; Congressman Opposes ‘Disability’ Plan"

Times-Picayune: "Most likely to be impeached?"

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