WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-Imprisoned U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent has resigned from the federal bench effective June 30 rather than face an impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
Kent is currently serving a 33-month prison sentence, after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in a probe of his alleged sexual abuse of two female court employees.
After pleading guilty, Kent had offered to resign but made the effective date June 2010 so he could have continued to collect his $174,000 salary for another year. Congressional lawmakers were outraged, and threatened to impeach the 59-year-old jurist.
Kent's resignation was announced Thursday at the first meeting of the Senate's impeachment trial committee, which is chaired by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
For Kent's resignation to take effect, President Barack Obama must formally accept it.
"The Senate today directed the Secretary of the Senate to deliver the original letter of resignation to the President and a certified copy to the House of Representatives," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a joint statement. "Additionally, the letter has been referred to the Senate impeachment trial committee. The Senate will determine appropriate action after the House has expressed its views about this development."
Kent is the first federal judge to be charged with sex crimes while on the bench, and he is the first federal judge to be impeached since Walter Nixon, Jr. in 1989.
Kent, who was a longtime federal judge in Galveston before being transferred to Houston, retired after pleading guilty in February to one count of obstruction of justice for lying to a judicial panel.
In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors agreed to drop five charges that he sexually assaulted the two women.
From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at firstname.lastname@example.org.