Opiate for the Mrs.

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Dowd also served as Major League Baseball's special prosecutor in the Pete Rose and George Steinbrenner cases, relentlessly pursuing and eventually getting both men suspended. But in demolishing his quarry, Dowd's heavy-handed tactics also bloodied the office of baseball's commissioner. In his book Lords of the Realm, which examines baseball's labor history, author John Helyar describes Dowd as a "blunderbuss."

That description seems apt in the Cindy McCain case.
Without Dowd, Tom Gosinski's claims against McCain and AVMT were going nowhere. His fleeting contacts with reporters were bearing no fruit. New Times interviewed Gosinski on several occasions, but he was unwilling to go on the record with his allegations. The Arizona Republic caught wind of the story and made inquiries, too.

Gosinski's assertion that Cindy McCain was addicted to painkillers required corroboration, some kind of official documentation, and when Dowd persuaded County Attorney Richard Romley to launch his extortion investigation, Dowd unwittingly provided it.

In a "confidential" April 28 letter to Romley, Dowd blurted, "We believe that Mr. Gosinski is aware that in the past Cindy had an addiction to prescription painkillers. . . . Given Cindy's public position, exposure of this sensitive matter would harm her reputation, career, the operation of AVMT, and subject her to contempt and ridicule."

There it was. On the record. In John Dowd's own words.
What was in it for Romley? To Romley, the extortion investigation must have appeared to be a no-lose situation. He could take comfort in the knowledge that the DEA and the U.S. Attorney were already probing drug acquisition and handling at AVMT. The feds normally refer cases of prescription fraud to state courts, but federal sources say that because of the possibility that ill-gotten drugs had been transported out of the country, the DEA and U.S. Attorney retained jurisdiction.

That left Romley free to go after Gosinski without much fear of damaging the McCains. On May 12, Romley's office launched its extortion probe.

An edited version of the investigative report was released August 22, jarred loose by a New Times public records request. Because the McCain camp was informed that the report was to be released, there was time to set up Cindy McCain's confessions before the agreeable journalists, none of whom was aware that the report was to be released.

Barnett Lotstein, special assistant county attorney, says the office has prosecuted an average of 14 extortion charges each year since 1988. He says the Gosinski investigation is "substantially complete," but that no decision has been made on whether Gosinski will be prosecuted.

Lotstein also says it is common to provide complainants--in this case, Dowd, et al.--with opportunities to edit investigative reports before they are made public. Lotstein says Dowd and company were not shown the report, "but they did assert their privacy interests with regard to certain privacy issues."

Asked repeatedly to cite another example where complainants had been allowed to such access, Lotstein says, "I don't have a specific case, but I can tell you that it's the normal procedure."

As a sometimes-special prosecutor is wont to do, John Dowd left his mark on the county attorney's investigation. About one-fourth of the 200-plus pages in the report consists of Dowd submissions, including a 26-page diatribe dated June 14 that reads like an insider's summary of the investigation to that point.

Dowd met with the investigators on at least one occasion, June 27. And the phone lines between Dowd's D.C. office and the County Attorney's Office apparently were buzzing.

The report indicates that Dowd landed some blows, and took some as well. Portions of it seem to buttress Dowd's claim that Tom Gosinski was attempting "a shakedown." Gosinski's colleagues at AVMT heard him say he would be willing to use what he knew about Cindy McCain to enrich himself.

AVMT employee Tracy Orrick told investigators Gosinski "would make comments like, 'I wonder how much Cindy's father would pay to keep this quiet,' referring to gossip around the office."

Kathy Walker--who is identified in the report as being "employed by Hensley & Company as Cindy McCain's Administrative Assistant and Director of Operations" of AVMT--told investigators that Gosinski told her in November 1992 that "I'm going to get her [McCain], I'm going to blackmail her if she ever fires me."

Gosinski denies ever threatening to blackmail McCain, and says he's saddened by Orrick's and Walker's statements. Gosinski claims that Walker and Orrick often joined in speculation about their job security, based on their observations of Cindy McCain.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.
Jeremy Voas