By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Whatever opinions exist regarding Dowd's tactics, the fact is that he prevailed. Even Dowd's detractors concede that it was the attorney's tenacious pursuit that nailed Rose. If baseball did not cover itself with glory, Pete Rose was, nonetheless, banned.
To his supporters, the harsh opinions of Dowd's tactics that live on in the wake of the Rose investigation are somewhat mystifying.
"A lot of people were upset with him about the Pete Rose investigation. A lot was said about that," said former Attorney General Griffin Bell. "But you have to remember that Pete Rose had a lot of friends. I knew John Dowd when he worked for me at the justice department. He's a fearless prosecutor and a very good lawyer. I would be glad to have him represent me. I would have been aware if there were problems at the justice department and I never heard anything like that. I can't imagine he'd have been as successful as he was if he was at all underhanded."
Prior to handling the Rose investigation, Dowd was with the U.S. Department of Justice from 1969 to 1978. There he distinguished himself in tax cases and RICO prosecutions aimed at mobsters. In his last four years, he was in charge of one of that agency's Organized Crime Task Forces.
In 1976 Dowd looked into allegations of FBI corruption. Agents were accused of making home improvements for J. Edgar Hoover's successor, Clarence Kelley. The new director was also accused of accepting expensive gifts from subordinates.
At the conclusion of his investigation, Dowd made the front page of the Washington Post with his recommendation that Kelley be fired.
When asked, Dowd told the press recently that President Gerald Ford, who appointed Kelley, wanted Dowd's head following the investigation.
The implication, of course, is that the President of the United States was infuriated by Dowd's unflinching quest for justice.
It is just as likely that Ford was upset because Dowd looked like a knothead.
Terming the incidents "common and trivial," the Washington Post in a 1976 editorial characterized Dowd's call for Kelley's dismissal the result of "excessive zeal and undiscriminating righteousness."
The paper noted that when Kelley accepted the job his first wife was mortally ill with cancer and that overeager agents installed window covers, at an expense of $335, to ease the couple's harried move into the nation's capital.
"The gifts involved--including an $83.48 clock, a $105 easy chair and a walnut table--do sound expensive," wrote the Post, "until one learns that they were purchased by a group of FBI executives, each of whom chipped in $10 or $15, and were given to the boss at Christmas or an anniversary . . ."
From her Missouri home, the second Mrs. Kelley said her husband no longer gives interviews because of a series of strokes.
But Shirley Kelley, who was courted by the FBI director during the justice department probe, had a distinct recollection of the investigation.
She said agents worked on the windows because the FBI took the position that having a private interior decorator inside the director's home posed a security risk.
Mrs. Kelley said that if you could only see the sort of clunky construction executed by the FBI agents who did the work, you would find it laughable that anyone would actually choose this particular perk as a form of corruption.
"What ran up the costs was that all these people from the FBI's prop department were sent out to measure [the windows] and they charged at $50 an hour. Rough plywood valances were put over the window and spray-painted hunter green. They were so ugly no woman would have them in the house," said Mrs. Kelley.
Mrs. Kelley, a former teacher with degrees in political science and theology, said a justice department official had the director sign papers while he was still under the influence of morphine following back surgery.
"These people were no good," said Mrs. Kelley. "It was nit-picky stuff and I was shocked at the tactics. And you can quote me on that."
Dowd said last week that he was unaware of any contention that the FBI installed the valances to prevent a breach of security. He denied any recollection of statements taken from Kelley immediately following surgery.
"I do know that Director Kelley was interviewed on the record by me and an FBI inspector in his office at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., during working hours," said Dowd. "Mrs. Kelley's characterization of my conduct of the examination and the investigation is simply not supported by the record."
Dowd defended his call for Kelley's dismissal, noting that, "All of the FBI inspectors assigned to this inquiry were of the view that Mr. Kelley should not continue as director of the FBI." Special agent Wilburn DeBruler, retired, disagrees.
Brought in as part of the small group under Dowd investigating allegations of FBI corruption, DeBruler said he was "shocked" at the call for Kelley's dismissal.
"It took a great deal of prosecutorial imagination to think this was a case," said DeBruler. "The agents who did it, did it in good faith. They thought they were doing something for the new director and his dying wife. It was wrong. But in my mind it was done unbeknownst to Mr. Kelley. But when Dowd heard about the incident, this excited Mr. Dowd. "Mr. Dowd was a very vigorous prosecutor. Very much so. He'd go after any kind of detail to make his case. I don't know if he was overzealous but he was concerned with the minute."
DeBruler also confirmed the postoperative interview.
"A statement was taken from Kelley shortly after surgery," said the ex-agent. "It probably wasn't wise to take it in his weakened condition but Mr. Kelley wasn't one to back off. He doesn't withhold the truth. I've never known Mr. Kelley to lie; if it was going to kill him, he would tell it like it is." If Dowd's critics think the Kelley investigation highlights the ex-prosecutor's obsession with the picayune, his champions can cite chapter and verse on Dowd's fearless prosecution of dangerous criminals.