Statutory Rape Allegations Against WWE Hall of Famer

Aug 1, 2017 - by Bill Fenbers

A sworn statement by an unidentified woman, contained in a motion filed today in John Dowd’s defense against Pete Rose’s defamation lawsuit, alleges that Rose had a sexual relationship with the woman for several years in the 1970s, beginning before she turned 16 years old.

Rose, who turned 76 years old in April, was inducted into the Celebrity Wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.  He made appearances at WrestleMania XIV, XV, and WrestleMania 2000, as part of his rivalry with Kane.  Rose also guest-hosted Monday Night RAW on March 22, 2010, six days before WrestleMania XXVI.

In the majority of states, including Ohio — where both the woman and Rose lived at the time — the age of legal consent is 16, so her allegation amounts to statutory rape.

Rose is Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader.  In 1989 he was banned from the game for life, after an investigation led by Dowd, then MLB’s special counsel, concluded Rose had bet on baseball when he was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.  In December 2015, Rose had his petition for reinstatement denied by current MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

Rose acknowledged he had a sexual relationship with the woman, in court documents made public Monday.  But he said his information and belief was that it started when she was 16.  He was 34 at the time, married, and the father of two children in 1975, when he says he began having sex with the woman, referred to in the filing as “Jane Doe.” Rose said he does not recall how long the relationship lasted.

The woman’s account does not raise the prospect of a criminal charge for Rose, as it is well past Ohio’s statute of limitations.  She said they also had sex outside of Ohio when she was 16 or younger, but didn’t specify the states, and Rose said their sexual relationship was confined to Ohio.  In some states, such as Florida, the legal age of consent is 18.

Rose sued John Dowd for defamation a year ago, in U.S. District Court in Eastern Pennsylvania, because Dowd claimed in a 2015 radio interview that Rose had underage girls delivered to him at spring training and committed statutory rape.

In the interview, with a station in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Dowd said, “Michael Bertolini told us, you know, he not only ran bets, but ran young girls down at spring training, ages 12 to 14.  Isn’t that lovely?  So that’s statutory rape every time you do that.”

In Rose’s complaint, he denied Dowd’s allegation, calling it “entirely false in every respect.”

Dowd’s motion asks the court to compel Rose to answer questions such as whether he had sex with other high school girls.  Rose’s attorneys objected to several defense questions, in part due to what they said is his right to privacy.

Today’s filing by Dowd’s attorneys also notes two journalists’ references to Rose’s relationships with young women — in “Collision at Home Plate: The Lives of Pete Rose and Bart Giamatti” in 1991 by James Reston Jr., and in 2000 by USA Today’s Jill Lieber Steeg, in an ESPN SportsCentury documentary.

Contacted by ESPN’s Outside the Lines earlier today, Ray Genco, one of Rose’s attorneys, said in an email: “John Dowd purposely made a defamatory statement that damaged Pete — serial pedophilia consisting of the statutory rape of 12- to 14-year-olds during spring training.  It is also false.  And Judge Tucker just ruled that it constitutes defamation, per se.

Dowd asked the court to dismiss Pete Rose’s lawsuit last August, and two weeks ago Judge Petrese B. Tucker dismissed one of three counts (tortious interference), and said another count (defamation) was insufficiently pleaded.  But Rose can amend the complaint on that count.  His attorneys characterized the ruling as a victory.

Along with being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Pete Rose was inducted into the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in June 2016;  he also had his #14 jersey number retired by the Reds.  On June 17th of this year, the Reds unveiled a bronze statue of Rose, in a headfirst slide, outside Great American Ballpark.

On Saturday August 12, 2017 in Philadelphia, three miles from the federal courthouse where his suit against Dowd is being contested, Rose is to be inducted into the Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame.  Rose currently a baseball commentator for FOX Sports.

SOURCEWilliam Weinbaum from

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