CINCINNATI -- A woman says Pete Rose had sex with her at a Cincinnati home before she was 16 years old, while she was a high school student and he was a Major League Baseball star.
The accusation of underage sex came out publicly Monday in Rose's civil defamation lawsuit against John Dowd, the investigator who built baseball's betting case against him.
If true, the woman's account may support Dowd's claim he was told Rose committed "statutory rape" when he was a player. That claim is the focus of Rose's lawsuit.
Rose's attorney, Ray Genco, said Dowd is "after-the-fact grasping at straws." Rose's team hasn't been given a chance to question the woman themselves, Genco said. He called Monday's filing "an absolute distraction."
"It tips me off that Dowd can't defend himself," Genco said.
Dowd, whose Dowd Report led to Rose's banishment from baseball in 1989, claimed Michael Bertolini, who booked Rose's bets and sold Rose memorabilia, told baseball investigators that year Rose had committed "statutory rape" with girls as young as 12 during spring training.
Dowd made his accusation against Rose on WCHE Radio in West Chester, Pennsylvania, on July 13, 2015:
"Michael Bertolini told us that not only did he run bets, but he ran young girls for (Rose) down in spring training," Dowd said on WCHE. "Ages 12-14. Isn't that lovely? So that's statutory rape every time you do that."
Bertolini's attorney denied his client ever told Dowd that. Rose vehemently denied the accusation and sued for defamation.
Court documents show Dowd intends to paint Rose as a serial liar and womanizer who regularly had sex with teenagers -- and so there's no reason he should have believed the accusation was false.
Dowd is asking the court to force Rose to answer questions about his sexual relationships, his history of lying and his mental health. Dowd says Rose has, by and large, refused to respond.
"If Rose did not want to answer questions about having sex with teenagers, his well-documented history of lying, or his mental health, he should not have filed this lawsuit," Dowd's motion said.
Genco said those questions are "wildly inappropriate."
"He's just dragging Pete's name through the mud as much as he can," Genco said. "And we shouldn’t allow that to happen."
According to the motion, filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania:
In a sworn statement, a woman identified only as Jane Doe said she got a call from Rose in 1973, when she was 14 or 15 years old. She began meeting with Rose shortly after that, at his home in Cincinnati. There, before she was 16, she said they began a sexual relationship.
Doe also said they met at locations outside Ohio, where they also had sex. The relationship lasted several years, she said.
Rose admitted they knew each other and had sex, but said Doe was 16 years old at the time and denied they had sex outside Ohio. He said the sexual relationship began in 1975, the year he turned 34 years old. Rose would have been married for 11 years at that point, with two children.
Ohio's age of consent is 16.
Brooklyn-based attorney Martin Garbus, representing Rose in the defamation suit, said the woman's statement is a lie. Rose never had sex with anyone younger than 16 while he was a player, he said.
"What's happened is that Dowd has sent out a number of investigators, and he has spoken to many, many women in an attempt to get them to falsely claim that Pete had statutorily raped a girl," Garbus said.
Dowd wants to know everyone Rose knew to be under 18 years old when they had sex, and also wants to know everyone Rose knew wasn't older than 17 years old when they had sex. He wants Rose to answer questions about his sexual relationship with a 14-year-old Western Hills High School student who, according to one media report, was Rose's girlfriend when he was in the minor leagues.
Dowd also asked Rose to answer questions about whether Doe was the only 16-year-old or high school student with whom Rose had sex.
And he wants Rose to admit he's a liar: He points to Rose's claims in the late 1980s and early 1990s that he'd never bet on baseball, as well as his interview with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in 2015, when he was trying to be reinstated.
Rose wants damages for mental anguish and suffering, so Dowd also says he should be required to provide information about his mental health history.
Genco told NJ Advance Media last summer that Dowd's accusations caused "real economic damages to Pete's reputation and marketability." Rose's lawsuit seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages of more than $75,000.
Rose, 76, was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame last summer, and the club officially retired his number 14. A sculpture of his trademark headfirst slide was unveiled at Great American Ball Park last month.
This story contains prior reporting by WCPO.com's Greg Noble.