Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Go Directly to Jail and DON'T Collect $175,000

by Kathryn Casey

Think the system is broken? Tired of hearing about money handed over to the very folks who cause the problems? Okay, picture this: a U.S. district judge is sentenced to 33 months in a federal prison, a stint he began just yesterday. Do you think that judge should be off the federal payroll? Samuel Kent apparently doesn't understand the logic.

Kent's crime? Obstruction of justice, for lying to a judiciary panel about his alleged sexual misconduct. His sentence came down May 11th. In a plea deal, Kent, 59, admitted that he lied about his sexual conduct with two employees. (Kent is the first federal judge in history to be indicted for alleged sexual crimes.) In return, prosecutors dropped five sexual abuse charges. Many argued that the sentence was way lenient. Disappointing but the end of story? It seemed so on June 3rd, when Kent tendered his resignation.

The catch: He wants to be paid for another year..

On what grounds does Kent argue he's entitled to keep collecting his $174,000 a year salary and benefits until June 1, 2010? Because he needs the money and the health insurance. (Like the hundreds of thousands of unemployed and uninsured Americans don't?) And, perhaps more to the point, he figures he can get away with it. Why? Because he hopes it could take that long for Congress to get around to impeaching him.

"Impeachment is going to be brutal. It's going to be ugly, and it's going to be nasty," says well known Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. Kent's attorney, DeGuerin charges that now that Kent has tendered his resignation, the only reason lawmakers could have to move on an impeachment is to get face time on TV and grandstand.

You know, some of us (my hand is raised) disagree. Let's review what Kent is alleged to have done. Consider the testimony of Cathy McBroom, one of two former employees who testified she was harassed by Kent: "He had one arm around my waist and was using the other arm to pull up my blouse and bra, exposing my entire breast. He also tried to force his hand down my skirt." Later, McBroom says a drunk Kent pushed her face toward his crotch and demanded oral sex.

In my humble opinion, it's Kent's behavior that's brutal, ugly, and nasty, not impeachment.

What's happening to Kent is deserved. He's not the victim; he's the perpetrator. Kent admits he tried to force himself on McBroom, a former case manager, and Donna Wilkerson, his secretary. He realizes he's going to serve time. He just doesn't want to give up the cash. (Kudos to McBroom and Wilkerson for having the courage to expose a federal judge. That couldn't have been easy.)

This is Kent's second attempt to stay on the federal dole. Earlier, he requested that he be allowed to retire on disability due to depression and psychiatric issues, which would have ensured him a paycheck for the rest of his life. That, thankfully, was denied.

So, what's to be done? The good news is that it's underway. Spurred by the judge's continued quest to collect a paycheck, on Wednesday, June 3, Congress began hearings that will undoubtedly lead to impeachment.

"This is a clear cut case," Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif, told the Associated Press. Lungren is right. It's a no-brainer. My question is: Why has this taken so long? Kent pleaded guilty in January and was sentenced in May. Notice the photo of Judge Kent at the top, waving? Glad to see him go, but I'm not sure why he thinks we're supposed to subsidize the trip.


Anonymous said...

Mr. DeGuerin sure likes to take on the cases for the dredges of the earth in Texas. I wonder how he can sleep at night?

Kathryn Casey said...

Everyone's entitled to a vigorous defense, Anon, and DeGuerin is a great attorney. But I heartily disagree with his argument that Congress would only look at this for personal publicity. Wish our elected officials would do more to safeguard our tax dollars, instead of giving them away!

Leah said...

Great post Kathryn. This is insane. No wonder our government is broke.

shthar said...

Why not?

It's probably going to be less than we're paying to have him locked up.

Anonymous said...

I saw in the newspaper that instead of prison they sent this guy to some kind of federal prison hospital. Suppose he's sipping drinks and lounging by the pool. Also the house has voted to impeach, so maybe it won't take until August? Hope so.

Kathryn Casey said...

With Congress moving on his impeachment, Samuel Kent has resigned! His salary is cut off as of July 1!