[JURIST] US District Judge Samuel Kent [official profile] pleaded guilty on Monday to obstruction of justice charges in connection with the alleged sexual harassment of his secretary and former case manager. The plea agreement included an admission that the sexual conduct was not consensual, in exchange for dropping five other counts of inappropriate sexual conduct with employees. The prosecution also agreed to limit Kent's prison sentence to three years, even though obstruction of justice is punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] issued a statement [press release] describing the agreement in detail:
As part of his plea, Kent admitted that in both 2003 and 2007, he engaged in non-consensual sexual contact with Person A. He also admitted that he engaged in non-consensual contact with Person B from 2004 through at least 2005. According to court documents, when Person A filed a misconduct complaint against Kent, the Fifth Circuit appointed a committee to investigate whether Kent had engaged in unwanted sexual contact with Person A or any other individuals. Kent admitted that when he appeared before the committee in June 2007, he falsely testified about his conduct with Person B.Kent immediately retired following the guilty plea, but might still face impeachment from Congress because federal judges continue to receive their salaries after retirement.
Kent's plea prevents him from becoming the first federal judge to go on trial for sexual harassment. He was indicted [text, PDF] last August, and was initially charged with the sexual harassment of his former case manager. Charges related to the alleged sexual abuse of his secretary were added [ABA Journal report, text] last month. In 2007, the American Bar Association (ABA) [professional association] adopted new policies reforming the Model Code of Judicial Conduct [JURIST report], which for the first time included prohibitions against sexual harassment, although some advocacy groups believe these changes do not go far enough [AP report].