Calpeek has been following the case against Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza, who was charged with attempted extortion. Something seemed amiss, but Calpeek’s research staff was unable to find any information because there is no Calpeek research staff. On Monday, the Fresno County District Attorney dropped the case during a pretrial hearing
Esparza was accused of threatening the employment of the now-former City Attorney. The charge was originally filed as a felony, but a Superior Court judge reduced it to a misdemeanor in November.
Since politicians are involved, so are politics. The Fresno County Democratic Party has accused Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp of using “…her office to harass and embarrass elected officials who are not aligned with her politics and the Republican party.” They have called for her to resign and for a state investigation.
Deputy District Attorney Victor Lai, head of the County’s public integrity unit and prosecutor, said politics was not involved in any of his decisions. According to the Fresno Bee, “Lai shut down any speculation that the case was politically motivated and said District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp was not heavily involved, despite public speculation and accusations from local politicians.”
After the hearing, Esparza told the Fresno Bee, “I came into this process a free and innocent man, and I’m exiting this process the same way,” Esparza said after the hearing. “The outcome of the dismissal this morning is what we have been hoping for.”