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A Los Angeles Superior Court judge falsified his background and qualifications when he applied for the bench in 1996, according to a state discipline panel, which also charged Wednesday that the lies mounted at the judge’s enrobing ceremony, in conversations with attorneys appearing before him and in testimony to commission investigators. The charges against Judge Patrick Couwenberg follow an intensive investigation by the Commission on Judicial Performance and have triggered a disciplinary proceeding before a panel appointed by the state Supreme Court. The panel will report its findings to the commission, which then has the power to remove, censure, publicly admonish or privately reprimand judges. The six counts allege that Couwenberg, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney whom Gov. Pete Wilson appointed to the bench in April 1997, at various times misrepresented himself as a Vietnam War hero who won a Purple Heart while an Army corporal, still suffers from shrapnel embedded in his body and engaged in covert operations for the CIA in Southeast Asia. In truth, the commission states, the judge’s military service was limited to the Navy Reserve. “You were never in the Army, in Vietnam or otherwise,” states one of the six counts of misconduct the commission filed. “You had never received, nor had you ever been eligible to receive, a Purple Heart.” In regard to his educational record, the commission alleges, Couwenberg omitted from papers accompanying his application for judgeship that he had attended Chaffey Junior College and Western State University College of Law. He also falsely claimed he had attended Loyola Law School and then included those false statements in documents supplied to another judge introducing him at his enrobing ceremony. Couwenberg, who was elected to a six-year term in 1998 and now sits in Norwalk, Calif., did not return a phone call Wednesday. The court’s presiding judge, Dewey Falcone, was out of the office and unavailable to comment. Long Beach, Calif., lawyer Edward George Jr. is representing Couwenberg before the commission. He responded to the charges by saying there were a number of inaccuracies in the judge’s r�sum� “that can be explained” and that the judge had additionally “made some mistakes, some of which he tried to correct.” George, who has defended judges in disciplinary proceedings for the past quarter century and sat on the commission in the early 1990s, declined to discuss any of the charges in detail. George added that disciplinary bodies “have to look at a judge’s overall position” and that Couwenberg is a respected member of the bench, highly regarded by prosecutors and defense lawyers alike. Along with the charges, the commission released a 51-page excerpt from a January “statement under oath” in which the judge told the commission of a shadowy figure named “Jack Smith” — who he said he later learned was representing the CIA — recruiting him in 1967 to help funnel munitions to Scandinavian mercenaries in “North Thailand.” In the transcript, the judge told in minute detail the nature and circumstances of his claimed involvement in operations to assist the mercenaries in disrupting military convoys in Vietnam and, in a later CIA assignment in the 1980s, to deliver documents to a contact while on a hunting trip in Africa. A commission investigator then asks the judge why, if the CIA had told him never to discuss any of his agency activities, he told a deputy in his court that he was engaged in covert military activities. “I just don’t know,” the transcript shows the judge answered. “I can’t answer that. Stupidity on my part.” Couwenberg went on to say the deputy, a Vietnam War veteran, had prompted him on several occasions to discuss his service record in the Far East. “My mistake probably, if you want to call it this, is a sin of omission. Instead of making it abundantly clear this is not what I did, I was not a Vietnam veteran, I was not attached to the military, I never did that,” he told the commission. “And if certain — if there were certain conceptions, I never corrected those.” The commission’s charges state, “You had not been affiliated with the CIA as you testified.” According to the commission, the judge, among other things, also falsely said he: � Has an undergraduate degree in physics from “Cal Tech,” when he never attended the California Institute of Technology. � Has a master’s degree in psychology, when he has no master’s degree. � Graduated from the University of La Verne College of Law in 1976, the year he passed the bar, when in fact he graduated in 1973 and failed the bar exam five times before passing. � Engaged in private practice at “Gibson Dunn” in 1976, when he was never employed at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Judge Couwenberg’s answer to the notice of formal proceedings is due July 17.

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