Code of Silence

A Well Documented Expose Of A Broken System

By Donna Gable Hatch
Code of Silence 

When former Hollywood powerhouse Harvey Weinstein was sentenced on March 11, 2020, to 23 years in prison, women everywhere cheered. Finally, a sexual predator prosecuted—and convicted—for his abhorrent behavior toward women. Weinstein received 20 years on first-degree sexual assault and three years for third-degree rape.

The initial public accusations filed against the convicted rapist in 2017 sparked a global explosion of the #MeToo hashtag. His conviction sent it into orbit.

For too long, men have lorded power and influence over women in the workplace, and women have been subjected to unwanted sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. The abuse is endemic, and it’s not relegated to the casting couches of Hollywood.

Code of Silence 


It takes brave women (and men) who are willing to have their lives put under a microscope for all to see, to risk having their careers implode and their future scuttled. But when an accuser has the power of the legitimate press in the corner fighting for truth and justice, it can lead to new beginnings—and turn the tables on the perpetrator.

Ten years before the #MeToo movement gained traction, Galveston resident Cathy McBroom accused a federal judge of sexual harassment; the only woman to do so since 1991, when Anita Hill accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

If not for the dogged determination of Houston Chronicle investigative reporter Lise Olsen, McBroom’s cries for justice may have been silenced.

For more than a decade, Olsen scrutinized and documented the accusations of abuse, corruption, and sexual misconduct in the office of U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent (Southern District of Texas). Olsen’s comprehensive reporting skills brought to light the culture of secrecy at the federal courthouse.

Thanks to solid journalism and two brave whistleblowers—McBroom, Kent’s case manager; and fellow Galvestonian Donna Wilkerson, his secretary—the disgraced federal judge was indicted in 2008 on federal charges of abusive sexual contact and attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a female employee.

Olsen chronicled her decade-long investigative reporting in her new book "Code of Silence," a fast-paced narrative in which she lays bare the debilitating affect McBroom and others suffered at the hands a man charged with upholding federal law.

A book signing will take place at Galveston Bookshop in January, pending restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic. Expected to join the author at the book signing are the two women who blew the whistle on Kent.

“I covered the Kent case as an investigative reporter for the Houston Chronicle, and the idea that a federal judge would break the law and sexually assault someone in a so-called ‘palace of justice’ really disturbed me—especially after Kent almost got away without ever being charged with any crime,” said Olsen, who worked at the Chronicle from 2003-2019, and is now senior reporter and editor for the Texas Observer, a state-wide online investigative magazine.

Code of Silence“I first learned by covering this case that federal judges nationwide always secretly investigate misconduct complaints about each other and rarely reveal anything to the public about those investigations.” Olsen was the first to break the story about the potentially criminal nature of the allegations in the misconduct complaint against Kent, and the story led to the beginning of the end of an unchecked abuse of power at the federal level.

“I reported for the first time that a long-time federal court employee had accused him of repeatedly sexually assaulting both her and another woman inside his judicial chambers. That story prompted members of congress to call for a formal criminal investigation.”

Olsen said "Code of Silence" dives deep into the many bizarre twists and turns in the Kent case that happened behind-the-scenes, both in the judicial misconduct probe and later in the criminal case. Much of the action is set on Galveston Island.

“I explain how a powerful judge like Kent truly is almost like a king, appointed by a president to serve for life. Indeed, Kent was able to continue to collect a judicial salary even after he was convicted and went to prison,” she said.

“My book also examines other stories to reveal more flaws in our nation’s secret judicial misconduct review system—a system in which judges judge each other.”

Dubbed a “Bully on the Bench” by others, Olsen said Kent literally called himself the ‘King’ of the island’s federal courthouse.

“Eventually, he earned fame beyond Galveston for another reason: In 2009, he became the only federal judge in history to be impeached for sex crimes,” Olsen said.

“But the fact that he was finally exposed and eventually went to prison, only after years of abusing his power and repeatedly sexually assaulting two employees—as well as other women—is due mostly to the bravery of whistleblowers who worked inside the island’s stately federal courthouse.”

McBroom filed the first complaint against Kent in 2007, but her accusations were met with half-hearted attempts to hold Kent accountable.

“At first, other federal judges secretly investigated Kent as part of the little-known judicial misconduct review system. Those judges initially hid the seriousness of the allegations against him and have never released their investigation to this day,” the author said.

It’s taken far too long for men to be held accountable for their actions in the workplace, but now that they’ve been unmasked, there’s no going back.

Anita Hill herself praised Olsen’s work, calling the book “A long overdue exposé on how the judicial system suppresses claims of sexual harassment against judges. In this new era of reckoning with sexual assault and harassment, ‘Code of Silence’ is essential reading.”

Buy the Book What: “Code of Silence” by Lise Olsen

Where: The book is available at Barnes and Noble stores nationwide, and online anywhere books are sold

Read an excerpt:

Details: The book is available in hardcover, digital and audio formats. It was published by Beacon Press in October 2021 and is distributed by Penguin Randomhouse


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Lise OlsenWant to know more? Author Lise Olsen’s reporting over more than 20 years has contributed to the prosecutions of a former congressman and a federal judge, inspired new laws and reforms, helped solve cold cases, restored names to a mother and child, who were unidentified murder victims, and freed dozens of wrongfully-held prisoners.

Olsen is featured in two documentaries: CNN’s “The Wrong Man” (2015) and in a six-part limited series called “The Eleven” that originally aired on A & E in 2017. The series examines unsolved murders on Galveston and a Texas prisoner who claimed to be a serial killer.

It is available on A & E and Amazon Prime, as well as other outlets. Visit