The judge presiding over the prosecution of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent has declined to vacate a gag order even though Kent has pleaded guilty, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Kent was indicted in August on charges of abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse. He is the first federal judge to be indicted for federal sex crimes, though he pleaded guilty only to obstruction of justice.
Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Pensacola, Fla., who was brought in to preside over Kent’s trial, imposed the gag order in September even though no party requested it. The order prohibited court staff, lawyers and “all other witnesses expected to be called by either side” from giving out non-public information that could interfere with a fair trial.
Now that there will be no trial to protect, KPRC-TV, the Chronicle, The New York Times and The Galveston County Daily News have moved to intervene in the case and challenge the order. According to the Daily News, "Vinson said the gag order would remain in effect until Kent is sentenced May 11."
In the Chronicle, editor Jeff Cohen criticized the order. “The president doesn’t get to gag his critics. No one gags those who criticize Congress. It is time to lift this gag order so parties to this litigation can speak out.”