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When Judges Go Bad

So let me get this straight: A federal judge in Texas gropes, kisses, and generally harasses two (that we know of) female subordinates (including his secretary, of all the pathetic cliches). When confronted, he lies, claiming that the gals in question were eager participants in all the boob fondling and crotch rubbing. When the preponderence of evidence against him at last leads to a guilty plea and a sentence of 33 months in federal prison, specifically for obstructing justice by lying to an investigative committee about his behavior, the honorable Judge Samuel B. Kent insists that booze--along with the depression, diabetes, and bipolar disorder from which he suffers--made him do it, and he requests permission to, instead of resigning in disgrace as he heads off to the pokey, submit a disability claim that would allow him to continue collecting his annual salary--somewhere in the neighborhood of $170,000--in perpetuity.

What utter bullshit.

I have no idea if Kent is an alcoholic or mentally ill or both--although one can hope there's some underlying condition to help explain how a man in his position could repeatedly force himself on the women in his office. But even if the judge was blind, stinking drunk every time he made a grab for one of the ladies, there's still the little matter of the charges on which he was actually sentenced. I mean, he presumably didn't turn up blotto before the investigative panel and so was at least reasonably sober when he lied through his teeth and endeavored to paint his former employees as scorned lovers. And, oh yeah, he also repeatedly lied to FBI agents and prosecutors investigating the claims as part of his crusade to destroy the credibility of the women in question. In a nutshell: After laboring to destroy the very judicial process he had sworn to uphold, Kent wants to continue being paid for his service.

I suppose you could argue that Kent's other problems made it impossible for him to come clean about what he had done--that he was too manic or depressed or disoriented by an ill-timed blood sugar crash to stop himself from committing a crime by lying to investigators about his previous criminal behavior. But do we really want to go down that road? I can see an aggressive defense attorney trying to make that kind of case to keep a client out of jail. It seems inconceivable, however, that any remotely sensible jurist (in this case Judge Edith H. Jones of the Fifth Circuit court in New Orleans, who oversaw investigation of the initial harassment claims by Kent's former case manager) would let this jackass pervert the justice system simply to keep his generous pension. Let him serve his time in a facility that specializes in addiction treatment, if you like. But don't give him another dime of taxpayer money.

I'll say this for Kent: He's got cojones. Too bad he didn't learn to keep them leashed before now.

--Michelle Cottle