Hearing held on judge's crimes

June 3, 2009 4:38:40 PM PDT
Two women who accused a federal judge of sexually assaulting them detailed the attacks and their fear of him Wednesday before a congressional panel considering impeaching the judge. Cathy McBroom told lawmakers that U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent -- who's headed to prison in 12 days for lying about the abuses -- cornered her in a room near a security guard station after returning drunk from a long lunch.

"He had one arm around my waist and was using the other arm to pull up my blouse and bra, exposing my entire breast," said McBroom, a 50-year-old former case manager for Kent. "He also tried to force his hand down my skirt."

That attack happened in 2003, she said. The final assault occurred in 2007, she said. The assaults culminated with the judge pushing McBroom's head to his crotch and demanding oral sex, she said.

McBroom and Kent's former secretary, Donna Wilkerson, testified at a House Judiciary Committee hearing held to collect evidence that could lead to Kent's impeachment.

Kent, the first sitting federal judge to face sex abuse charges, was sentenced to 33 months in prison last month and is set to report to prison June 15. He resigned Tuesday effective June 2010 -- meaning he'd continue to draw $174,000 a year and benefits until then -- but several members of Congress said they want to impeach him to cut off his pay as soon as possible.

"What you have described here is so unacceptable that members of Congress have to act," said Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif. "This is not a difficult case. It is a clear-cut case."

As part of a plea deal, Kent admitted he tried to force McBroom into unwanted sex acts in 2003 and 2007, and did the same with Wilkerson from 2004 through at least 2005.

Kent, 59, has been denied his request to retire on disability due to depression -- which would have meant full salary for the rest of his life.

Kent and his lawyer Dick DeGuerin were invited to testify but declined. Kent sent a letter to the panel saying he is proud of his conduct, but remains proud of other parts of his 18-year career in which he closed almost 13,000 cases.

Kent asked the panel in a letter to consider his years of service to the country. Because he has no pension or retirement, removing him from office "will render me penniless and without the health insurance I desperately need," for diabetes and mental health problems, he wrote.

Because Kent pleaded guilty, McBroom and Wilkerson never testified in court about his attacks and gave only limited information publicly.

Both women said they endured great turmoil because of the assaults. McBroom's marriage ended in divorce and Wilkerson said her marriage has suffered.

"I am mentally exhausted and every day is a struggle to heal, move forward and literally function," said Wilkerson, 45. She said she was "sexually, psychologically abused, manipulated and controlled by Sam Kent."

Wilkerson said Kent assaulted her or attempted to one to two times a month. Sometimes the attacks were fewer because he was not drinking. But McBroom said Kent sometimes assaulted her when he was sober. In the worst attack, Wilkerson said, Kent removed her pants and performed oral sex on her at the office.

"Sam Kent is a 6'4" man, weighing 260 to 300 pounds, in any given period," Wilkerson said. "Once caught, cornered or pinned, there is no getting away."

Wilkerson said she did not tell her husband because she feared what he might do to Kent.

She and McBroom both said many employees knew of his behavior but looked the other way because they were afraid of him and his authority. McBroom had complained to a supervisor after Kent's first attack. The supervisor told her she'd likely end up losing her job, not Kent, because he was a lifetime appointee and all-powerful.

An impeachment attorney told the House panel that Kent was convicted of lying to a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judicial panel. The attorney Alan Baron said Kent also lied to the FBI in December 2007 and to Justice Department officials in August 2008.

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