Court document alleges that Pete Rose committed statutory rape in the 1970s

A sworn statement by an unidentified woman, contained in a motion filed Monday 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.

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 who in 1989 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.

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, 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 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."

Bertolini was a memorabilia dealer whose taped conversations and other information were cited in the 1989 Dowd report as evidence of Rose's betting. When NJ.com published Dowd's remarks three weeks after the broadcast, Bertolini's attorney issued a statement saying his client "categorically denies" them.

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.

Monday'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 Outside the Lines on Monday, 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 can't defend his own actions here -- so he is distracting. It's just Dowd attacking Pete instead of defending his own inexplicable accusations on the radio the day before Pete was to be honored in Cincinnati at the All-Star Game. His litigation strategy is to further drag Pete's name through the mud. It's a witch hunt -- and won't be a successful litigation strategy."

David Tobin, an attorney for Dowd, told Outside the Lines on Monday, "We'll let the filing speak for itself."

Dowd asked the court to dismiss 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.

In December 2015, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred denied Rose's petition for reinstatement and a year later the National Baseball Hall of Fame declined a request from Rose to change its rule that anyone banned from the game is ineligible for the Hall.

Rose, 76, is a Fox Sports baseball commentator and regularly signs items at a memorabilia store adjacent to a casino in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas. He was in Cooperstown, New York, this past weekend, as he usually is at Hall of Fame induction time, signing autographs at a shop down the street from the Hall.

Dowd, also 76, is a former federal prosecutor and a longtime Washington attorney who is now leading President Donald Trump's legal defense team in the Russia probe.

The Reds inducted Rose into their Hall of Fame and retired his No. 14 last year, and last month they dedicated a statue of him outside Great American Ball Park. On Aug. 12, 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.