Imprisoned judge's impeachment begins

Image: U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent
U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, appointed for life, is serving a 33-month prison sentence while collecting his $174,000 annual salary.Pat Sullivan / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Senate began work Wednesday to force an imprisoned federal judge out of office.

Following a process scripted by the U.S. Constitution, the Senate accepted four articles of impeachment against U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent of Texas.

The House impeached Kent Friday on allegations of sexual assault and lying to Justice Department and court officials.

Kent pleaded guilty to lying to judicial investigators about the sexual assaults of two women who worked for him and is serving a 33-month prison sentence.

Kent has said he would resign in June 2010, allowing him to draw his $174,000 annual salary another year. Federal judges are appointed for life. Lawmakers can only force Kent out of office by convicting him in a Senate trial on the impeachment charges.

Kent has said he would be left penniless if forced out.

"I am outraged that he continues to receive benefits and compensation as a federal judge, despite his felony conviction, admission of guilt, and prison sentence," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

House members and their staffers formally "marched" the impeachment articles from the House clerk's office in the Capitol, up a set of stairs and through the Rotunda to the Senate chamber.

The last impeachment trial was of former President Bill Clinton in 1999.

Six Democrats and six Republicans, led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will gather evidence for Kent's Senate prosecution.

A trial is not expected to begin for several weeks.