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In Houston this morning, U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent of the Southern District of Texas pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Kent will be sentenced May 11. In a whisper, Kent pleaded guilty to the obstruction charge – Count Six in the superseding indictment against him — before U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida, who is sitting by assignment. As a result, Kent avoids trial on the other five charges against him. Although the obstruction of justice count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, the 12-page plea agreement notes that the government agrees the maximum term of imprisonment that it may seek is three years and it may seek a lesser sentence. “I understand the crimes to which I have agreed to plead guilty, the maximum penalties for those offenses and sentencing guideline penalties potentially applicable to them,” according to the Defendant’s Acceptance portion of the plea agreement. After Kent pleaded guilty, his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, a partner in DeGuerin & Dickson in Houston, told reporters outside the courthouse that Kent has notified the president and the chief judge that he is “retiring” from the bench. “Judge Kent believes the compromise settlement is in the best interest of all involved,” DeGuerin said. “The trial would have been long, embarrassing and difficult for all involved.” In September 2008, Kent pleaded not guilty to three original charges — two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse. The charges stem from a complaint filed by Kent’s former case manager in Galveston, Cathy McBroom. On Jan. 6, a federal grand jury issued a superseding indictment in United States v. Samuel B. Kent that added three criminal charges against Kent — one count of aggravated sexual abuse, one count of abusive sexual contact and one count of obstruction of justice. The alleged victim in the superseding indictment was only identified as “Person B.” She is represented by Houston lawyer Terry W. Yates. The obstruction charge alleged Kent obstructed justice when he made false statements to the Special Investigative Committee of the 5th Circuit, which was investigating McBroom’s complaint. On Jan. 7, Kent pleaded not guilty to the three additional charges.

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