Judge clears path for Pete Rose lawsuit against sex claims

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In this June 3, 1981 file photo, Pete Rose dives headfirst for third base during a baseball game against the New York Mets in Philadelphia.

A federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled that Pete Rose can move forward with a defamation lawsuit against John Dowd, a lawyer whose 1989 investigation led to the former Phillies star being banned from Major League Baseball, for comments Dowd made during radio interviews in 2015 about allegations of sexual misconduct by Rose.

Dowd, who is now one of the private attorneys representing President Trump in the investigations of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, said in a July 13, 2015, interview with AM radio station WCHE in West Chester that Michael Bertolini, who was involved with Rose in betting on baseball games, “told us that he not only ran bets but he ran young girls for him down at spring training, ages 12 to 14. Isn’t that lovely. So that’s statutory rape every time you do that.”

Three weeks earlier, Dowd said in an interview with sports radio talk host Jim Rome that Rose had Bertolini “running young women down in Florida for his satisfaction.”

In August 2015, Bertolini issued a statement through an attorney categorically denying the allegation: “He never did any such thing, nor did Pete Rose, nor did Mike say anything to Dowd about the subject.”

U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker on Friday ordered that Rose’s defamation claims, which were filed last year, can proceed but ruled that he failed to provide a plausible case that Dowd’s statements intentionally interfered with a contractual relationship Rose had with the shoe company Skechers to appear in TV commercials.

In 1989, Dowd was named by Major League Baseball as a special counsel to the commissioner to investigate allegations that Rose bet on baseball games while managing the Cincinnati Reds. In August of that year, Rose voluntarily accepted the league’s lifetime ban from the game.

Amy Ginensky, a lawyer representing Dowd, declined Monday night to comment on the judge’s decision.

In an email Monday night, Ray Genco, a lawyer for Rose, called the ruling “a big win.”

“Dowd’s legal team did all they could to dismiss the causes of action that this case is all about — defamation and defamation per se — and they failed,” Genco wrote. “The court dismissed our third cause of action — interference with contract — and that was to be expected. It was a long shot.”