Young Mecham backer admits child molesting

I have changed the name of the teen-ager in this news article, even though it was widely published and broadcast at the time. Juvenile records are confidential. Somebody with access to confidential police and court records leaked to the press the file about a then 15-year-old boy molesting an eight-year-old girl.

A significant but unreported angle of this news story would be to identify the government official who leaked this report. Why? What was the purpose of this leak? Who made the decision to leak? Of course, reporters don’t burn their sources. But, in cases like this, that makes the reporter complicit in publicly damaging the life of a teen. We can assume that the purpose of the leak was to politically damage Governor Evan Mecham.

– Ken Smith

July 7, 1987

Associated Press

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — A teen-ager who founded a fan club for outspoken Gov. Evan Mecham and worked as a volunteer in the governor’s office acknowledged Tuesday that he molested an 8-year-old girl 2 1/2 years ago and said he had resigned to spare the governor further embarrassment.

On Monday, Mecham, a conservative Republican, branded a group that is seeking his recall as “a band of homosexuals and a few dissident Democrats,” and noted a morals charge had been brought against its founder.

“I made a mistake while growing up,” said John Pitkin, who turned 17 Tuesday. Despite his youth he had made a number of talk show and other public appearances for the governor.

“I’ve spent the whole day crying,” said Pitkin. The incident happened when he was 14, and he served probation for it, he said.

Mecham said Tuesday that “I feel sorry for the young man,” and stressed that since Pitkin was a volunteer, there was no background check done on him.

“He should have known that anybody close to me is going to have a detailed investigation of their background (by the news media),” Mecham said.

Mariel Antonino, a Mecham press aide, said the boy mostly ran errands and clipped newspapers.

Mecham, who took office in January, has received wide criticism for a number of actions, most notably for his decision to cancel a holiday for state employees in honor of Martin Luther King.

Ed Buck, head of the recall effort and an acknowledged homosexual, was quick to draw a parallel.

“Can one then assume … that everyone who supports the governor is either a child molester or a rabid Republican?” Buck said. “Of course we know that’s not true, just as it’s not true that every detractor of the governor is a homosexual.”

After founding McClintock Teen-age Republican Club, Pitkin created the Ev Mecham Fan Club in April, calling him the “best governor Arizona’s ever had.” He claims a membership of 2,000.