WASHINGTON — The House on Friday impeached a federal judge imprisoned for lying about sexual assaults of two women in the first such vote since impeaching former President Bill Clinton a decade ago.
The impeachment of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas sets up a trial in the Senate. Kent is the first federal judge impeached in 20 years.
The House approved four articles of impeachment against Kent accusing him of sexually assaulting two female employees and lying to judicial investigators and Justice Department officials. All four articles passed unanimously.
"The conduct at issue here is both shocking and shameful," Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said at the start of the debate.
Kent, 59, entered a federal prison in Massachusetts on Monday to serve a 33-month sentence. He pleaded guilty last month to lying to judicial investigators about sexual assaults of two female employees.
Kent is refusing to resign until next year so he can continue to draw his $174,000 a year salary. If he is convicted of the impeachment charges in the Senate, he will be forced off the bench.
When contacted for comment, Kent's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, cited an earlier statement in which he said Kent's troubles might be enough for impeachment in the House but would not have produced a conviction in the Senate.
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said he was not unsympathetic to Kent, who has said he has suffered depression since his first wife's death and had problems with alcohol abuse. But Smith said Kent does not have the right to continue as a federal judge and collect his salary.
"It is now time for justice: justice for the American people who have been exploited by a judge who violated his oath of office," Smith said.
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, sat in the chamber early in the debate. Hastings was acquitted of bribery charges as a federal judge, but later impeached by the House in 1988. The Senate convicted him on similar impeachment charges.
The House voted in 1998 to impeach Clinton for obstructing justice and lying under oath about his sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky, but the Senate early the following year found him not guilty on his impeachment charges.
The next step is for the Senate to appoint a special trial committee. After doing pretrial work it will submit a full report to the Senate. Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the pretrial work can last weeks or months. But a trial can be swift.
The full Senate acts as jury and a two-thirds majority is required to convict on the impeachment articles.
As part of his plea bargain, Kent admitted that 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 lawyer and her family have used her name publicly in discussing the case. Wilkerson knew her lawyer gave her name to reporters during Kent's trial. Both women also testified before the House committee.
He must participate in an alcohol-abuse program while in prison. He also was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $6,550 in restitution to the secretary and case manager whose complaints resulted in the first sex abuse case ever against a sitting federal judge.
Kent was nominated to the bench by President George H.W. Bush and has served since 1990.
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(This version CORRECTS paragraph 12 to correct that Reid is from Nevada.)