Not-Guilty Plea in Judge's Sex Abuse Case

Samuel Kent says he's "absolutely" not guilty of sexually abusing ex-employee.

Sept. 3, 2008— -- A federal judge under indictment for sex abuse pleaded "absolutely and unequivocally not guilty" to the charges at an arraignment at the federal courthouse in Houston today.

A grand jury indicted Judge Samuel Kent last week on two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempted aggravated sexual abuse.

The charges stem from allegations by a court employee who worked for Kent at the federal court house in Galveston, Tex. That employee, Cathy McBroom, is not named in the indictment, but filed a complaint against Kent in May 2007 and has spoken through her lawyer about the matter.

In court Wednesday, when the judge asked Kent if he understood his rights to a trial by jury and to call his own witnesses, he replied, "I do and for the record, I absolutely am going to testify and am going to bring a horde of witnesses."

According to the indictment, Kent attempted to force his employee's head towards his groin area during an incident in March 2007, and inappropriately touched her without her permission "with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade" during the alleged March 2007 incident and another alleged incident in August 2003.

At his arraignment, Kent called the charges "flagrant and scurrilous." He is the first federal judge indicted for sex crimes, and the only federal judge indicted since 1991, according to the Associated Press.

The judge released Kent on his own recognizance.

Outside the courthouse, Kent's attorney Dick DeGuerin told reporters that the matter is merely a swearing match between Kent and McBroom, and the only way to settle it was for both sides to take a lie detector test. He said Kent has offered to undergo the testing, but that the Justice Department has not taken him up on the offer.

If convicted of the aggravated sexual abuse charge, Kent could face a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $250,000 fine. He also could get up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the abusive sexual contact charges if convicted.

When news of his indictment broke last week, DeGuerin released a statement asserting his client's innocence, calling the Kent's relationship with McBroom "completely consensual" and charging that she only complained because she was about to be fired. After Kent's arraignment, DeGuerin further characterized the relationship as "not sexual."

McBroom disputed DeGuerin's claims last week, releasing a statement through her attorney saying that she has "listened and read with horror as Judge Kent's lawyer suggested that what happened to me was 'enthusiastically consensual,'" and that the charges gave her a sense of validation after "a very difficult 17 months."

In May 2007, McBroom filed a sexual harassment complaint against Kent, according to court documents. A federal judiciary panel admonished him last September, reassigning some of his cases and ordering him to take a four-month leave of absence as a result of the review.

The court system also relocated Kent to Houston. He began work there on Jan. 2.

Judge Edward Prado of the Western District of Texas presided over Kent's arraignment; he and the attorneys present discussed the possibility of bringing in another judge from outside the Southern District of Texas, the federal jurisdiction where Kent sits on the bench.

President George H.W. Bush appointed Kent to the federal bench in 1990. Federal judgeships are lifetime appointments.

ABC News' Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.