Former U.S. District Judge Samuel B. Kent, who is serving a 33-month prison sentence, isn’t going to get a new sentence. On Dec. 8, Senior U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida signed an order that adopts a U.S. magistrate judge’s report and recommendation and denies Kent’s request for an order to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence. In August, Kent, who was a judge in Galveston, filed the motion seeking an evidentiary hearing. In that motion, Kent alleged his sentence should be reviewed on three grounds: The U.S. Bureau of Prisons ignored the sentencing judge’s intent by denying Kent admission to the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP); he was subjected to “conditions tantamount to psychological and physical torture” since he began serving his sentence in June 2009; and his sentence violated due process. However, in his Dec. 8 order, Vinson wrote that he is granting Kent’s request for an evidentiary finding to the extent that it seeks Vinson’s sentencing intent. Vinson wrote that he had “no expectation” Kent would receive a reduction of his sentence for participating in the RDAP or any other Bureau of Prisons program. “While I anticipated that the defendant needed the benefit of several of the Bureau of Prisons’ medical, mental health, and substance abuse programs, I knew that he could not qualify or participate in all, or perhaps in any, and that the security level of the institution to which he was designated and the separation requirements would probably receive BOP priority,” Vinson wrote. Kent’s criminal-defense attorney, Dick DeGuerin, a partner in DeGuerin & Dickson in Houston, says he’s disappointed with Vinson’s order, but “there’s not much more we can do. . . . The next step is he’s just going to have to be released when the BOP says he can be released,” DeGuerin says, noting that Kent may be allowed to end his incarceration in a halfway house. According to the BOP website, Kent, who is in custody in Florida, is scheduled to be released in November 2011. DeGuerin says Kent completed an alcohol abuse program while in prison in Florida, but it did not give him credit that would reduce his sentence, as the RDAP would. When sentencing Kent, Vinson recommended the former judge participate in the RDAP, which, if successfully completed, would give Kent a 12-month credit on his sentence. However, Kent alleged in his motion that the BOP has “officially denied Kent admission into RDAP” because he was sober during the 12 months preceding his arrest. Peter Ainsworth, a prosecutor at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., who prosecuted Kent, declines comment on Vinson’s order. However, in a September opposition in United States v. Samuel B. Kent, the government urged Vinson, who sentenced Kent while sitting on assignment in Houston, to deny Kent’s motion. On May 11, 2009, Vinson sentenced Kent to 33 months in prison. Kent earlier had pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of justice as part of a plea deal.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys