Wednesday, January 7, 2009

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent indicted on additional sex charges

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, the first federal jurist indicted on sex crimes, is now facing more serious charges.

Kent was set to be arraigned Wednesday, a day after a federal grand jury in Houston added three new charges to the indictment it issued in August that accuses him of making unwanted sexual advances toward his former court case manager.

The new charges — aggravated sexual abuse, abusive sexual contact and obstruction of justice — allege Kent engaged in unwanted sexual contact with a second former court employee and later lied about it to investigators.

"There is a gag order in the case which prohibits the parties from making any sort of comment with the exception of stating without elaboration what the defense is to these new charges," said Dick DeGuerin, Kent's attorney. "They are untrue and we believe the product of intense pressure and threats brought against the complainant."

In a press release, the Justice Department only gave a brief description of the additional charges against Kent.

Kent, who was released on his own recognizance after last year's indictment, is still on the bench.

Jury selection in Kent's trial on the initial charges against him was set to begin Jan. 26. It was not immediately known if the new charges would delay the trial.

If convicted, Kent faces up to life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. He is the first federal judge to be indicted in the last 18 years.

Kent initially faced two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse following a U.S. Justice Department investigation into complaints by case manager Cathy McBroom.

McBroom accused the judge of physical sexual harassment over a four-year period starting in 2003 when he was the only U.S. District Court judge in Galveston, an island beach town 50 miles southeast of Houston.

The new charges accuse Kent on one or more occasions between January 2004 and January 2005 of attempting to force an unnamed former court employee to engage in a sexual act at the U.S. Post Office and federal courthouse in Galveston.

In addition to the two new sex charges, Kent is facing an obstruction of justice charge.

McBroom has said the alleged harassment culminated in March 2007, when the judge pulled up her blouse and bra and tried to force her to perform oral sex when they were interrupted.

The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but McBroom's attorney and her family have used her name in publicly discussing the case.

The judicial council suspended Kent in September 2007 for four months with pay. He was transferred to Houston last year as part of his punishment by the judicial council. McBroom was also relocated to Houston after reporting her allegations.

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