Federal judge harassed woman for years, friends of victim say

Monday, November 12, 2007

Family and friends of a federal court employee whose sexual misconduct complaint led to the suspension of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent told a newspaper that Kent repeatedly harassed the woman over four years, including allegations of improper touching.

Those include the alleged assault in March that began an investigation ending with the September reprimand against Kent by a federal panel, a rare disciplinary action against a federal judge.

The reprimand by the Judicial Council of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals includes no details of the complaint. But in a story published Sunday by the Houston Chronicle, people close to the alleged victim described in detail the alleged groping in an office room.

The mother of Cathy McBroom, who filed the judicial misconduct complaint, said her daughter typed a detailed account of what happened on her computer.

"When she gave it to me to read, I was just completely shocked and could not believe what happened," Mary Ann Schopp said. "It was so traumatic it really has affected her in ways you can't even imagine."

Kent is barred from commenting on the investigation or the reprimand. His attorney refused the newspaper's request for an interview and referred all questions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

McBroom and her attorney, Rusty Hardin, would not comment on specifics about the allegations.

But according to interviews with Schopp and others close to McBroom, including Felicia Williams, a retired court employee who previously worked as Kent's case manager and is McBroom's friend, Kent summoned McBroom to his chambers the afternoon of March 23.

After Kent allegedly asked for a hug, McBroom told him she didn't think that was appropriate but reluctantly approached, the newspaper reported. Kent then allegedly grabbed McBroom, who is a married mother of three, and pulled up her blouse and bra.

The alleged incident escalated until being interrupted by the sounds of footsteps in the corridor, the newspaper reported.

Hardin, McBroom's attorney, said he is preparing a criminal complaint for federal officials.

"I believe (Kent) committed a felony under state and federal law, and we're so informing federal authorities."

Charlene Clark, a San Antonio schoolteacher and childhood friend of Clark, and another source told the newspaper that McBroom experienced about 15 to 20 incidents of alleged harassment between 2003 and 2007.

Last month, Kent was relocated from his office in Galveston to Houston. He is set to return to be bench Jan. 2 after serving a four-month leave of absence.

Kent, nominated by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, is collecting his $165,000 annual salary during his suspension. Kent's reprimand stated that he must complete "other remedial courses of action," but it provides no specifics.

Joseph St. Amant, a spokesman for the 5th Circuit, has said the public reprimand was the first for the court out of several hundred complaints filed in his eight or nine years in that position.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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