Former public relations and newspaper executive Douglas R. Dowie won a reprieve from prison this week, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered him free on bond while he appeals his conviction for defrauding city taxpayers.
The two-judge panel noted in a ruling Wednesday that Dowie and co-defendant John Stodder Jr.'s appeal “raises a ‘substantial question’ of law or fact that is likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, or a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment.”
Dowie was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for a scheme to overbill the city Department of Water and Power, the port and the airport when he headed the Los Angeles office of public relations giant Fleishman-Hillard.
The former managing editor of the Los Angeles Daily News, who was once a formidable force in political circles, was to report to prison by March 19. Stodder received a 15-month prison term.
U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess denied Dowie’s request to remain free during his appeal, but extended his date of surrender until April 27.
Dowie appealed that ruling, buying more time.
Now that the appellate judges granted him bail, he could remain out of prison for months, and, if the appeal is granted, for good.
Dowie could not be reached for comment.
Circuit Judges Pamela Ann Rymer and Thomas G. Nelson noted that Dowie and Stodder were not likely to flee or pose a danger to public safety, and that their appeals raised substantial questions about the trial last year.
They did not specify which of as many as 19 points of contention could lead to a reversal.
Among the points Dowie raised in his appeal:
* He was not allowed to take a polygraph test to show “consciousness of innocence.”
* The judge quashed subpoenas issued to Fleishman-Hillard on his behalf.
* The judge did not acquit him based on insufficiency of evidence when the prosecution finished its case.
* He was denied hearings over two jurors’ potential bias.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Cheryl O’Connor Murphy, in opposing Dowie’s motion in district court, argued that he was just trying to delay imprisonment.
“Defendant provides a laundry list of issues for appeal, each of which has been thoroughly presented to and properly denied by the Court, and none of which is likely to result in reversal on appeal,” she said.
Murphy said Dowie did not explain in his motion why the court’s rulings were erroneous and damaging to his case.