Federal judge pleads guilty before start of trial

HOUSTON (AP) - A federal judge accused of groping two of his female former court employees and trying to force them to perform sex acts has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for prosecutors dismissing sex-crime charges against him.

U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent's guilty plea came as jury selection in his trial was set to begin on Monday.

Kent, 59, had been facing six charges - five related to federal sex crimes and one for obstructing justice, in which he was accused of lying to an investigative committee.

The obstruction charge carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Kent was the first federal judge charged with a sex crime and would have been one of only a handful to be tried.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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