Judge resigns before Senate trial

WASHINGTON U.S. District Judge Sam Kent produced the resignation letter when he was served with a subpoena for his Senate impeachment trial, Terrance Gainer, the Senate sergeant-at-arms, said on Thursday.

Kent said in the letter that he will resign effective June 30. His attorney, Dick DeGuerin, was in court and could not be reached for comment.

Kent is serving a 33-month sentence in a Massachusetts federal prison for lying to judicial investigators about sexual assaulting two women. He was impeached by the House last week and this week the Senate began work to bring him to trial on the four articles of impeachment.

The articles accuse him of sexual misconduct and lying to judicial investigators and Justice Department officials.

Kent's letter was sent to President Barack Obama and to the House. The Senate will decide what to do next after hearing from the House, Senate leaders said.

Kent had previously said in a letter to Obama that he would resign effective June 2010. But several members of Congress, angry that Kent would draw his $174,000 annual salary and benefits while in jail, pushed for his impeachment.

Federal judges are appointed for life. Impeachment is the only way to force them from the bench. If they resign, they do not collect their salary.

Kent earlier had asked to be allowed to retire on disability due to depression, but that request was rejected by a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judicial panel.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was pleased that Kent realized "we would not allow him to take advantage of the system."

"I hope the women Mr. Kent assaulted will find some closure in this man being behind bars and no longer being able to serve on the bench or collect a taxpayer-funded paycheck," Sensenbrenner said.

In addition to his prison sentence, Kent was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $6,550 in restitution to his former secretary and his case manager, whose complaints resulted in the first sex-abuse case against a sitting federal judge.

Before Kent, the last time the House voted to impeach was in 1998 when it impeached President Bill Clinton.

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