WASHINGTON A House panel voted 10-0 on Tuesday to recommend impeachment of a federal judge from Texas who has been convicted of lying about sexual assaults of two female employees.
The House task force, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., took just 20 minutes to agree to four articles of impeachment essentially charges against U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Galveston, Texas. The recommendation goes to the full House Judiciary Committee, which is to meet Wednesday and is likely to vote to send the impeachment articles to the House.
The impeachment charges allege Kent sexually assaulted the women and lied about the sexual assaults to a federal court of appeals investigative committee, to the FBI twice and to Justice Department officials.
Kent's attorney Dick DeGuerin was recovering from knee surgery when called for comment and did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.
Kent, the first sitting judge to face sex crime charges, begins serving a 33-month sentence in a week for lying to prosecutors about sexually abusing the women.
Schiff called Kent's conduct "deplorable" and "incompatible with the confidence and trust placed in him as a judge." The impeachment document accuses him of "high crimes and misdemeanors."
"For the House of Representatives to sit idly by and to allow Mr. Kent to continue to hold the office of U.S. district judge while sitting in prison after committing such high crimes and misdemeanors, it would be a stain on the Congress as well," Schiff said.
Kent pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges last month. As part of the plea deal, he admitted he tried to force Cathy McBroom, his former case manager, into unwanted sex acts in 2003 and 2007, and did the same with Donna Wilkerson, his secretary, from 2004 through at least 2005.
The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but McBroom's attorney and her family have used her name in publicly discussing the case. Wilkerson knew her lawyer gave her name to reporters during Kent's trial.
Terry Yates, attorney for Wilkerson said his client is pleased the House has handled the case quickly. McBroom's attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.
Kent had hoped to retire on disability to continue collecting his $174,000 annual salary and benefits. But that request was rejected by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He told President Barack Obama in a letter that he would resign in June 2010.
Members of the House balked at that offer, rejecting the notion that Kent would be paid his federal salary for a year while he is behind bars.
Federal judges are appointed for life. Impeachment is the only way to remove them.
In a letter to the task force, Kent said if he is forced out, he would be penniless.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee submitted three psychiatrists' evaluations of Kent. They describe his depression, alcohol abuse and separation from family after his first wife's death. One mentions his father's death and the subsequent "farming out" of his brothers to other relatives.
Rep. Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico, said others in Kent's position would have resigned by now.
"He gave us no choice but to do what we are doing today," Pierluisi said.
On the Net: House Judiciary Committee:http://www.judiciary.house.gov