Bogus Fresno Bee letter adds intrigue to DA campaign

A suspicious letter to the editor of the Fresno Bee is heating up the race for Fresno County district attorney.
April 17, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
One of the most interesting political campaigns of the season just added a little more intrigue. A suspicious letter to the editor of the Fresno Bee is heating up the race for Fresno County district attorney.

It's just four paragraphs above the fold on A15 of Wednesday's Fresno Bee. The writer raises questions about Lisa Sondergaard Smittcamp's integrity, but we discovered whoever wrote it has serious integrity issues.

"You know, everybody's entitled to their opinion so my first reaction was the person who wrote it was trying to look for things to manipulate the truth to slam me," said Smittcamp, who's running for Fresno County district attorney.

But this letter to the editor supporting district attorney Elizabeth Egan turned out to be much more complicated.

The author claimed his name was John Pitcairno of Fresno in his e-mail to the newspaper. He gave an address at a Northeast Fresno condo complex, but nobody there has heard of him. In fact, an Action News investigation shows no such person exists.

Fresno Bee editorial editor Bill McEwen told us he reached the same conclusion when someone raised the question to him. The Bee removed the letter from its online edition. It's planning to give a response in Friday's paper.

ABC30 political analyst Tony Capozzi says it's evidence of dirty politics, but it didn't necessarily come from Egan's campaign.

"First impression is that someone on the Egan campaign is doing this, but again, this is politics, so you don't know if it's someone in the Egan campaign, someone in the Smittcamp campaign or really if it's just some overzealous person who wants to have an effect on this campaign," Capozzi said.

Smittcamp says it's another bruise in a bitter battle.

"I think under the pressure, her campaign is reacting or her supporters are potentially reacting in a very manipulative and unethical way," she said.

Egan's campaign contact, Dave Gilliard, said he had no idea who was behind the letter, but he didn't want to talk about it on camera.