Accused judge still judges others

January 12, 2009 4:45:17 PM PST
He's accused of sexually abusing two of his employees, but federal district judge Samuel Kent is still on the bench, hearing cases. He's the first federal judge ever charged with sex crimes. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Last week, Judge Samuel Kent's trial was delayed after another employee came forward, accusing the judge of sexual abuse. If not for more charges, opening arguments in Judge Kent's trial would've been today.

If he's convicted, he could go to prison for life, so the allegations are pretty serious. Before trial though, he hasn't even taken off the bench. These days he's still judging cases -- reportedly in the same building as his accuser.

Judge Kent wasn't in trial at the federal courthouse today. He was supposed to be on trial at the federal courthouse today. But that was delayed when more sexual assault charges were thrown at him last week.

Two former employees allege the federal judge groped them and made unwanted sexual advances towards them. On top of that federal prosecutors say the judge lied to investigators trying to figure it all out. But since serving a four month suspension after it first came to light, Kent's been on the job.

"The process needs to be looked at," suggested Sonia Corrales of the Houston Area Women's Center

The process allowed a panel of his peers -- other federal judges -- to decide what to do. The group, headed up by Chief Judge Edith Jones limited Kent's workload. He can't hear criminal cases, but still sits in judgment of other people -- even some involving civil rights cases in the workplace according to his clerk. That's the process Corrales thinks needs to be examined.

She said, "We always think about defendants or alleged perpetrators. We know that they have all kinds of protections under the Constitution, or that the Constitution protects them. What about the victims?"

If Kent were a state judge he'd be suspended as soon as he was indicted. In fact just last year, a Brazoria County judge was booted from the bench for similar allegations. Not Judge Kent. But Federal judges are appointed for life and there is no rule that says they have to come off the bench if they've been indicted.

ABC13 legal analyst Joel Androphy explained, "Our system of justice should not require people indicted to obviously suffer the consequences immediately without a jury trial."

Androphy says the rules protect the public and Judge Kent, who hasn't been convicted of anything. But it's not enough for Corrales.

She asked, "What if in the end, if they are proven guilty? And then you've subjected not only this victim but other potential victims to this alleged perpetrator."

Judge Kent is paid $165,000 tax dollars a year, and he will be, whether he's under indictment, hearing cases, cleared or on trial himself. Even if he's convicted he can't be removed unless he's impeached by Congress.

Because of a gag order in the case, no one directly involved can speak with us. Judge Kent has always maintained his innocence.

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