Photo: Akin Gump
John Dowd is a name you may not know yet, but you will.He’s leading the team of 9 attorneys attempting to prove that Galleon chief Raj Rajaratnam is not guilty of insider trading.
When Raj was charged back in 2009, within 10 days he “hired a lawyer with a track record of going for the jugular,” says the WSJ.
That lawyer is 69 year-old Dowd, the head of the white collar crime group at Washington law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
That go-for-the-jugular constitution dates back to Dowd’s days as a military lawyer, after a spell as captain in the Marine Corps. Apparently he has “a Marine’s view of combat and takes it to court with him,” a lawyer and longtime friend of Dowd’s told the WSJ.
Other defence attorneys who know him say, “John does not broach disagreement kindly,” and he is “fearless in a courtroom.” That opinion seems to fit with Dowd’s defence of Raj so far. Lawyers who have been following the case think Dowd has “pursued a defence strategy that is combative” even relative to other high-pressure criminal trials.
He also a bit of a jury-charmer.
“He’s a six-foot, five-inch enormous former Marine who has a real sense of command. He’s extra effective with juries. People like him because he’s very straightforward. He looks like a former altar boy who wouldn’t mislead you,” a colleague told Bloomberg.
Reuters spoke with a prosecutor who said Dowd “was very easy to deal with, not an ‘in-your-face’ type of defence attorney, [and is] not a lawyer with one particular m.o.”
Others who know him said “he comes across as a loveable curmudgeon, a loveable curmudgeon offended by injustice.”
Some who know or have worked with Dowd seem to think he’s more curmudgeonly than adorable, and sources for a Wall Street Journal article talk about Dowd’s propensity to get truculent during a case.
Apparently, in his last criminal trial, he “shouted at prosecutors… and lost his cool during a pretrial meeting when a prosecutor suggested that a slide Mr. Dowd wanted to use in his opening argument might not be permissible.” Dowd says it’s not true.
That trial, by the way, wasn’t just any trial — Dowd was representing then-Arizona Governor Fife Symington, who was accused of 23 counts of bank fraud including false statements, wire fraud and attempted extortion.
A stellar resumé
Reading through his profile on Akin Gump’s website, it’s not difficult to see why Raj wanted Dowd. He’s defended a “U.S. district judge, a former U.S. attorney and two U.S. senators,” a U.S. Army colonel in the Iran-Contra hearings, in addition to Governor Symington, and once supervised an internal investigation of the FBI when he was a prosecutor at the Department of Justice’s tax fraud and organised crime-fighting unit.
He’s used to big, media-event trials; he represented John McCain in the late 1970s, early 80s, in the “Keating Five” scandal, when five senators were accused of corruption in connection with chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, Charles Keating. McCain was cleared of “impropriety.”
In 1989, he was hired by Major League Baseball to investigate Pete Rose. Dowd found that Rose had gambled on games when he was manager of the Cincinnati Reds in 1987, and Rose was banned from baseball.
Baseball fan and lobster soother
Dowd is a big Red Sox fan, says the WSJ, “who tools around the harbor at Chatham, Mass., in his 26-foot fishing boat and sometimes entertains relatives by rubbing lobsters on the back of their shells to put them to sleep.”
He has five children and 11 grandchildren, according to Reuters, and speaks with “a hint of an accent from his native Massachusetts.”
He’s also a Blackberry user, and clearly doesn’t like to be away from it for long…
Dowd earned his undergraduate degree from St. Bernard College, and a J.D. from Emory University.
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