Scientology Crime Syndicate

29 Sep 2000

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune (West Covina, CA)

By Bill Hetherman

WEST COVINA -- Citrus Municipal Court Judge Patrick B. Murphy is back to work after a prolonged absence he maintained was caused by illness not by publicized legal troubles outside the halls of the courthouse.

In his first interview since his July 1 return, Murphy said he will try to keep working as long as his health permits. Murphy declined to say what made him ill, although his lawyer, Thomas Dovidio, had indicated the judge had cardiac troubles.

But Murphy, 44, also is the subject of allegations made in various lawsuits filed last year that he misappropriated $1.8 million. The allegations are being reviewed by the District Attorney's Office to see if an investigation is warranted, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the office.

Murphy, who was paid his annual $103,537 salary during his time off, denied any wrongdoing.

"There's so much nonsense going on," he said. "But when the facts are out it's all going to be (explained)."

According to the lawsuits, Murphy asked an attorney to keep $1.8 million in an attorney-client trust account and to distribute the funds later to a woman who was Murphy's paralegal when he was in private practice.

At least some of the money came from trust funds meant for the four children of physician George Taus, according to court documents filed by an attorney for the doctor's ex-wife.

Murphy has declined to say exactly what role he had, if any, in the Taus matter. But he said he and his attorney told prosecutors months ago that they will discuss it with them if it will help them in their review.

"We had contacted them at the beginning and said we were always willing to talk with them," Murphy said.

Before Murphy came back, Judge Rolf M. Treu sent a report in June to the Commission on Judicial Performance, which monitors the ethical conduct of the state's judges.

Treu said a state rule of court required him, as presiding judge, to report Murphy's absences to the commission. The rule applies to jurists absent for more than 90 days during a 12-month period.

Treu declined to say whether he received a response from the commission, whose members rarely say anything about ongoing reviews of a judge's conduct.

But Treu said that the investigation by the District Attorney's Office is partly responsible for his decision to assign Murphy to civil, instead of criminal, cases. He also cited Murphy's health, noting the criminal caseload is much larger than the civil docket.

Murphy said that he agreed Treu was obligated to report the absences, but had not been told and was surprised to learn from the Tribune about Treu's decision regarding criminal cases.

"I would be the first to disagree," Murphy said. "It runs completely counter to the whole concept of criminal justice that everyone is presumed innocent."

Murphy said he thought he was given the civil-case calendar because he was handling it before he left and knows about civil law from having practiced it before becoming a judge.

Addressing other issues related to his legal troubles, Murphy confirmed he took trips to England and Germany in 1997 to lecture on Criminon, a program for rehabilitating offenders which he used in some criminal cases before he was reassigned to handle civil matters.

The program is linked to the Church of Scientology, whose practices have been praised by many for having a positive impact on their lives, while others have complained of alleged mind-control tactics.

Murphy acknowledged taking the trips in a deposition he gave March 30 for a lawsuit field by a securities firm over money generated from selling off some of Taus' community property three years ago.

A copy of the deposition was provided to this newspaper by the Metropolitan News Co.

"Our code of ethics specifically permits judges to participate in educational seminars," Murphy said. "That has always been completely disclosed."

Murphy was referring to a provision in state law that limits judges to $250 a year in gifts from one source, but allows an exception for international travel expenses provided by tax-exempt religious groups.

Murphy also said in the deposition that he took several trips to Las Vegas with a female friend who once worked for him while he was a lawyer. One of the lawsuits alleges he tried to launder some of the Taus monies through casinos in the Nevada gambling mecca.

But Murphy said he enjoys the atmosphere in Las Vegas and doesn't go there just to gamble.

"Las Vegas has evolved to being a much more family-oriented place," Murphy said. "I would say that about half the time I probably don't even gamble."

Murphy was elected in 1992 by unseating incumbent Abraham Khan in a bitter election battle. He ran for Superior Court in 1996, but was defeated by Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Karl W. Jaeger.

Murphy was unopposed in last year's elections and was automatically re-elected to a second term.


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