Attorneys for Pete Rose, claiming that the Cincinnati Red manager has been prejudged by a "biased and prejudiced commissioner," filed suit Monday, seeking to prevent Bart Giamatti from conducting the hearing into Rose's alleged gambling activities.
The 36-page suit, filed in the Common Pleas Court of Hamilton County, Ohio, seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would bar Giamatti from holding a hearing scheduled next Monday in his Manhattan office.
The suit acknowledges that a former associate has accused Rose of betting on baseball, including the Reds--an activity that carries a lifetime suspension--and asks the court to appoint "an impartial decision-maker and fair procedures for judging" those accusations.
Giamatti, according to the suit, has "displayed outrageous conduct and bias . . . as an investigator, a prosecutor and a prospective judge" and asks for unspecified monetary damages "which will fairly compensate (Rose) for the destruction of his reputation as one of baseball's foremost living participants."
Judge Norbert Nadel is scheduled to conduct a hearing on the injunction request this morning.
In a statement released by the commissioner's office Monday, Giamatti alluded to the 225-page investigative report on Rose that was prepared for him by attorney John Dowd and said:
"By filing a lawsuit against major league baseball, the Cincinnati Reds, the commissioner and me personally, Mr. Rose's counsel have sought to undermine the hearing on June 26.
"All my efforts to proceed fairly and to maintain confidentiality have been, regrettably, damaged by the selective use of Mr. Dowd's report, by the bizarre characterization of some of those excerpts and of the report itself contained in the court papers.
"I regret that baseball's business has been subjected to tactics of this sort.
"Major league baseball's counsel have reviewed the filings and have advised me that Mr. Rose's lawsuit is wholly without merit. Baseball's counsel will appear tomorrow morning in Cincinnati and oppose Mr. Rose's motion.
"I trust the court will permit me to proceed with my hearing."
That hearing had originally been scheduled for May 25 but was postponed by Giamatti until June 26, at the request of Rose's attorneys.
In the court papers, those attorneys said that baseball's investigation was "the result not of a fair and impartial investigation but rather a misguided and one-sided attempt to prove . . . that Pete Rose bet on major league baseball games."
The suit said that unless the court intervened: "Rose will be forced to rebut false accusations that he bet on baseball that are contained in an error-ridden report prepared by agents of the commissioner . . . in proceedings before a biased and prejudiced commissioner."
The suit charges that Dowd based his report "almost exclusively on hearsay statements" from Ronald Peters, Paul Janszen and Danita Marcum, a friend of Janszen.
Peters, a former restaurateur in Franklin, Ohio, has been described as Rose's bookmaker. He recently pleaded guilty to cocaine distribution and making a false statement on his 1985 income tax return, charges that could have carried a 23-year prison sentence.
Friday, however, a U.S. district judge in Cincinnati imposed only a two-year jail term, citing Peters' cooperation with federal investigators probing Rose's taxes.
In the Dowd report, according to Rose's court papers, Rose is accused of betting on Red games by Peters and Janszen. Janszen is a former house guest of Rose who recently served a six-month sentence for tax evasion and, according to affidavits in the federal inquiry into Rose's taxes, placed bets on the Reds and other baseball games for Rose.
Rose, in his suit, again denied that he has ever bet on baseball and, through his attorneys, attempted to show that dates and places cited by Peters and Janszen were wrong.
In one example, according to Rose's attorneys, evidence alleged by Janszen to be betting slips and referred to as "Pete Rose Betting Sheets" in the Dowd report "purports to set forth a bet made on an April 9, 1987, game in which Cincinnati played at Montreal."
"Incredibly," Rose's suit claims, "Dowd places significant emphasis on this sheet of paper, even though April 9 was an off-day for the Reds, and while they played Montreal the previous day, the game was played in Cincinnati."
Rose's suit further said: "The (Dowd) report discredits, avoids or ignores the numerous witnesses who testified repeatedly that Pete Rose had not bet on major league baseball games."
In addition, Rose's suit claims without elaboration that witnesses were threatened and that evidence of bias in the commissioner's office was apparent from the start of the investigation March 2. The suit claims that Giamatti's director of security, Kevin Hallinan, had decided that the accusations were true within 10 days after the investigation started.
The suit also cites a letter Giamatti wrote to U.S. District Judge Carl B. Rubin on April 18, saying he believed Peters had been "candid, forthright and truthful" with baseball's investigators.
Rubin, scheduled to sentence Peters, said he was offended by the letter and regarded it as an attempt to influence his decision. He added, "there is evidence here of a vendetta against Pete Rose."
Rubin was criticized by peers for violating judicial etiquette with his public comments and stepped down as the sentencing judge, but the episode, according to Rose's suit, represents an example of Giamatti's bias.
Both Rose and Reuven Katz, his longtime agent and attorney, refused to elaborate Monday on any aspect of the suit.
The general feeling among several sports-oriented attorneys contacted Monday was that there is considerable precedent supporting the legality of a commissioner in taking disciplinary action against a figure in his sport, particularly in gambling cases.
In addition, they said, the constitutional guarantees of due process do not normally apply to a private organization, as baseball is.
The Supreme Court, they pointed out, reaffirmed that when it ruled recently that the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. did not have to follow constitutional due process in levying sanctions against basketball Coach Jerry Tarkanian of Nevada Las Vegas for rules violations in 1977.
"The only way the court will rule in Rose's favor is if it decided that Giamatti has acted in an outrageous, arbitrary or capricious manner, and aside from the letter to the judge, that doesn't seem to be the case," one attorney said.