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May 12, 2009

Still more disturbing details emerging (and not emerging) from Kent sentencing

The more I learn about the crimes and sentencing of former federal judge Samuel Kent, the more troubled I am about how this case has been handled by federal prosecutors and the presiding federal judge.  And I remain especially aggravated that Kent will probably end up serving less than two years in federal prison while far less advantaged individuals are serving much more time for seemingly much less serious crimes.

Consider first this potent victim statement post on-line by the Houston Chronicle.  It details how extensively Kent sexually abused one particular court employee, how "he hurt so many people in so many ways," and how his decision to lie repeatedly about his criminal acts further exacerbated the harms suffered by his victims.

Now consider an excerpt from this potent post by lawyer Tom Kirkendall, who attended the sentencing and asks some keen and important questions about how this case was handled by everyone involved:

The first hour or so of the hearing was stupefying as prosecutors and Kent defense attorney Dick DeGuerin argued over objections to the government's pre-sentencing report. The main reason for the boredom was that, for the most part, no one except the lawyers in involved in the case and U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson knew what they were talking about. That vacuum of information was a direct result of Judge Vinson's dubious decision to keep a substantial amount of the information about the charges against Kent under seal and away from public scrutiny.

Judge Vinson's decision in that regard might have been somewhat defensible had the two victims of Kent's sexual assaults requested secrecy to preserve what little privacy that they could salvage from this ordeal. But neither of the victims requested such treatment, and my sense is that Kent didn't want it, either.

So, Judge Vinson decided to conduct this case largely outside the public eye for his own reasons. In my 30 years of practicing law, I have never seen the volume of information in a case placed under seal as was done in this case.

In sentencing Kent, Judge Vinson claimed that he was upholding the justice system by showing that even a powerful judge is not above the law. Unfortunately, he undermined that same system by preventing the public from learning the details of the accusations against Kent and Kent's responses to those allegations. Although the first part of the hearing could have induced a snooze, the pace picked up dramatically when the two victims of Kent's assaults made their way to the podium to make their victim statements to the court. Both victims were extremely impressive in their presentations, describing the emotional and family carnage that Kent's assaults and abuse of power caused.  We also learned tidbits of information that likely would have been already been revealed had Judge Vinson not maintained such tight control over information... [including that a] "culture of fear" existed among employees at the Galveston federal courthouse as a result of Kent's manipulative behavior and frequent drunkenness....

[N]ow it appears that Kent was drinking heavily for much of the past decade and that he was frequently intoxicated while at the courthouse.... Where were Kent's "friends" who knew about his excessive drinking and other personal problems, and were in a position to intervene and help him before it was too late?

What are we to make of the federal government's human resources apparatus that an entire federal courthouse could have been placed under a culture of fear by the abusive behavior of one man?

And doesn't the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council have some explaining to do on why it issued its agreed order of public reprimand of Kent without interviewing either of the victims during the council's investigation?

Finally what are we to conclude about our justice system that the Houston Chronicle -- which, along with its coverage of Hurricane Ike, should have been won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the Kent case -- provides much more information to the public about the crimes of an abusive judge than the prosecution of that judge?

Related posts on the Kent proceedings:

May 12, 2009 at 08:24 PM | Permalink


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Doug, you and I see eye to eye on this one. The abuse of power is demeaning, apart from the actual assault. It's disgusting, and in some small way, it's tyranny on a micro-level. I would have given Kent significantly longer.

Posted by: federalist | May 12, 2009 9:14:44 PM

Just curious, federalist, what you would have given to Judge Kent and also whether this case is another example of the "urban discount" you like to mention?

Posted by: Doug B. | May 12, 2009 9:25:04 PM

I don't know, Doug. I really don't know. I despise the abuse of power, and so I'd be tempted to max him out--like 20 years. But we don't sentence like that, so I'd probably give him 10-12 years.

I don't think this is an "urban discount" (which is a state phenomenon, not federal). I think this is a situation where a federal judge thinks another federal judge has suffered enough and is acting accordingly. And I think it outrageous. I really do. I am also baffled, to be honest, about the 7 year sentence for the juvie judges who took money to incarcerate kids. How anything but a life sentence or death for what is an egregious form of kidnapping is appropriate is simply beyond me.

Posted by: federalist | May 12, 2009 10:14:27 PM

Hard call. Horrible cult criminal cappo vs. horrible feminist nightmares on wheels. Each has a vile lawyer, of course. 50 years old, for Pete's sake. You have to be plenty drunk to go for Grandma in a Biblical way.

What neither of you cult victims will ever spot as an issue:

What about the lawyerized, feminized male relatives of the vile feminists? They forgot to be men. Thank the lawyers that castrated them.

If they were any kind of men, they would wack the judge behind the knees in a dark parking lot with a baseball bat. Break his leg. "Bitch, next time you come within 50 feet of my bitch, it will be your head." It should be easy to pull off, since he was always drunk.

The lawyer has totally castrated the American male. That castration was the proximate cause of 9/11. 9/11 would have been impossible in any other nation, than the lawyer castrated US.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 13, 2009 12:07:07 AM

"If they were any kind of men, they would wack the judge behind the knees in a dark parking lot with a baseball bat. Break his leg. "Bitch, next time you come within 50 feet of my bitch, it will be your head." It should be easy to pull off, since he was always drunk."

You forgot the part about standing over their victim and yelling "Hail Hitler!". Isn't that what they do with any fascist ideology?

Posted by: MarkM | May 13, 2009 12:46:26 AM


No, no, no.

What they yell is, "Rush is right!"

Posted by: Amendment 21 | May 13, 2009 4:56:58 AM

markM: Please, tell me you are not a lawyer.

If you are not, Peace, my friend. I am arguing to protect your rights and freedoms.

If you are, your remark is a problem.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 13, 2009 6:53:25 AM

A21: 9/11. 3000 people. $7 trillion loss to the economy. War in Iraq. The cost of lawyer castration of the American male. Thank a lawyer if you loved those consequences.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 13, 2009 7:09:14 AM

Just wondering if Supremacy Claus knows that federalist is a lawyer, a corporate lawyer to be exact (meaning federalist extracts more "rent" -way more - than public sector lawyers like prosecutors and public defenders), and, if so, whether this affects their "love match."

Posted by: lawone | May 13, 2009 12:35:52 PM

lawone, I believe the term was "love connection" . . . .

Posted by: federalist | May 13, 2009 12:48:05 PM

I stand corrected.

Posted by: lawone | May 13, 2009 12:54:05 PM

I care about federalist, as much as I care about lawone, and Prof. Berman. I am not being sarcastic. They are all victims of cult indoctrination. They are twice as oppressed as the public by the hierarchy. They suffer the opprobrium of an absolutely essential profession in total failure, when it should be a great factor in the dynamism and success of the nation.

I want to kill the cult and bring the profession into the scientific era, unleash its great power to further progress, and make it richer and more esteemed. Your mother will not do more for you. That is how much I care.

Once the lawyer starts listening, this is the 21st Century. No more supernatural, Medieval garbage doctrines, the lawyer will love it.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 13, 2009 2:12:36 PM

Are you listening, federalist?

Posted by: lawone | May 13, 2009 2:28:33 PM

My understanding is that presentence investigation reports are generally sealed and that this isn't some special order protecting Judge Kent.

Posted by: anonymous | May 14, 2009 10:44:06 AM

the remarks about how boring the sentencing was, and attributing that to the gag order, fundamentally misunderstood federal sentencing. anyone who practiced law, or ever witnessed a sentencing, before the guidelines became advisory, can attest that that's how sentencing was. any layperson in the audience would have no idea what was going on as the attorneys argue over offense level points and the like. and even with the advisory guidelines, that still has to go on. a correctly calculated guideline range is still a prerequisite to the sentence.

Posted by: ziemer | May 14, 2009 4:11:32 PM

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