FBI Investigating Series of Threatening Letters to Media

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A letter mailed to The Columbus Dispatch newspaper is among those being reviewed as part of an FBI investigation into a series of threatening letters that complain that ESPN and ABC crews have exploited cheerleaders, WNBA players and WTA Tour players, the newspaper reported Wednesday on its Web site.

The FBI on Tuesday offered a $5,000 reward for help finding the mailer of dozens of the letters – some containing a potentially harmful insecticide – to national networks, their local affiliates, and people throughout the West and Midwest. Recipients also included people associated with university athletic departments in Ohio, Michigan and Arizona.

The letter sent to the newspaper, bearing a Seattle postmark, says a television producer “will cause 88 people to be assaulted and shot at. One for each time shown on TV, one for each second shown and 10 for each shot during a 30 second timeout.”

The FBI is working to determine whether the letter mailed to the newspaper matches the other letters, The Dispatch reported.

“We’re trying to seek the public’s assistance and are hoping they recognize some of the verbiage contained in the letter,” said Harry Trombitas of the FBI’s Columbus office.

The writer or writers of the other letters complained that television crews have exploited cheerleaders and other female athletes through certain camera angles, even though those angles were rarely shown on the air.

The author of a letter sent in December 2006 mentions Ohio state cheerleaders in a complaint that networks unfairly favor more modestly dressed cheerleading squads.

“For the last 6 years, Ohio State cheerleaders have received more TV time than any other Division 1A cheer squad on ESPN, because they wear long sleeved red/white outfits. If they wore sleeveless outfits, they would not get ANY TV time. So, we are fed up with this constant exploitation,” the author wrote.

Ohio State cheerleading coach Judy Bunting said she has been advised not to comment.

The initial batch of letters was postmarked in Portland and delivered in September 2004. Subsequent batches of letters were delivered between November 2006 and February, mostly with postmarks from Seattle, but some also were sent from Chicago, the FBI said.

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