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Fresno County Superior Court Judge Vincent McGraw got away with a slap on the wrist in 1999 when judicial watchdogs found out he had frequently used his office computer to surf pornographic Web sites. But when the 12-year judicial veteran lied about it during an unsuccessful re-election campaign earlier this year, authorities had had enough. On Thursday, the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance announced formal charges against McGraw for allegedly lying to reporters about his illicit computer use and threatening to sue if a story ran. “You are charged,” the CJP said in its formal notice, “with willful misconduct in office, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute and improper action � providing for removal, censure or public or private admonishment.” McGraw, who lost re-election in March, could not be located for comment Thursday. But his former campaign manager, Doug Kessler, said McGraw should have just refused comment when questioned by the press about his computer activities, and that it was him, not McGraw, who threatened suit. “He never said anything about that,” Kessler said. “He himself was adamant that he was not suing.” Kessler said McGraw could not be reached because he was in the process of moving from Fresno to Atlanta. As an ex-judge, McGraw could be barred from receiving future judicial assignments. Ironically, McGraw, who had served on the Fresno County municipal and superior court benches since 1989, was a member of the Commission on Judicial Performance as recently as 1998. In an eight-page inquiry notice issued Thursday, the CJP explained how it had privately admonished McGraw in 1999 for using county computers to access Internet sites “containing sexually explicit materials” for seven months in 1998. County records, the CJP noted, revealed that the computer had been logged on to these sites for an average of 15 hours per month, 11 hours of them during weekday work hours. McGraw admitted his mistakes, the CJP noted Thursday, but in February compounded the problem by denying misuse of his courthouse computer during campaign interviews with a newscaster from Fresno’s KMPH-TV. He also denied having been disciplined by the CJP. “You denied,” the inquiry notice said, “that you were ever privately disciplined by the Commission on Judicial Performance for improper use of your court computer or for any other reason ‘in any way, shape or form,’ stating, ‘no … not in any way.’” Furthermore, the CJP stated, McGraw violated judicial canons by threatening to sue the TV station if it published the allegations he had denied. “Your threat to bring legal action and your reiteration that the allegations were not true and that the news story lacked factual basis,” the CJP said, “were made for the purpose of attempting to dissuade the publication of facts concerning your conduct that were true and known by you to be true prior to the March 5, 2002, election.” The CJP also accused McGraw of improperly using court resources to distribute campaign contribution forms and engaging court employees in campaign talk during work hours. McGraw has until Oct. 3 to respond to the allegations. A hearing will eventually be scheduled before a panel of special masters appointed by the California Supreme Court. According to the CJP, McGraw is representing himself. McGraw, whom the CJP indicated leaves the bench today, was beaten for re-election by Fresno attorney Jon Kapetan. McGraw’s computer use became a significant issue in the race, according to press accounts.

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