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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.

"John Dowd is the best. He is brilliant, hardworking, terrific," said Richard P. Crane, who ran the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice covering California, Nevada, Arizona and other Western states.

Crane, who headed the justice department's west-coast strike force from 1970 to 1975, said he found it impossible to believe that Dowd's work was less than professional in the cases of Pete Rose, Clarence Kelley or anyone else.

"I would never believe that," said Crane. "There were plenty of opportunities to overreach and I never saw that. I sat with this guy in very sensitive investigations and the wrong mentality could have taken a cheap shot."
And that never happened, claimed Crane.
Crane said he and Dowd worked together on the investigation in 1973 that put the top five mobsters in Los Angeles behind bars. He also said John Dowd worked casino investigations in Las Vegas and the seemingly endless pursuit of Meyer Lansky.

"Lansky claimed he was sick all the time," remembered Crane, "and to prove how sick he was, he died. But John Dowd was invaluable."
By the time of the savings and loan crisis, Dowd was no longer prosecuting wise guys, he was defending them.

When Arizona's U.S. Senator John McCain found himself under investigation by his colleagues last year for his ties to Charles Keating, he hired Dowd. The lawyer's aggressive defense of McCain appealed to Symington. With the advice of Arizona's Attorney General Grant Woods, the governor hired the D.C. litigator.

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey