July 11, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: Law: Record-Journal: Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III is busy trial lawyer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Colombia: Peace Corps Colombia : The Peace Corps in Colombia: July 11, 2004: Headlines: COS - Colombia: Law: Record-Journal: Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III is busy trial lawyer

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Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III is busy trial lawyer

Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III is busy trial lawyer

Colombia RPCV William F. Dow III is busy trial lawyer

Armed widow, governor fill busy lawyer's docket
By John Christoffersen and Matt Apuzzo, Associated Press

Caption: Gov. John G. Rowland's lawyers, William F. Dow III, above, and Ross H. Garber, have criticized the committee charged with recommending whether Mr. Rowland should be impeached. He is under scrutiny for gifts and favors he accepted.

NEW HAVEN It's always a risky move to put a defendant on the stand, but William F. Dow III figured it was the right call when he was asked to represent an elderly woman accused of killing one teenager and wounding another.

His client, 70-year-old widow Emily Papuga, had fired a .22-caliber rifle into the dark in 1980 after years of torment by teenagers, killing a 15-year-old boy and wounding another teen.

The evidence was harsh and she faced the prospect of real prison time. Prosecutors said the youths were retreating when Papuga shot them in the back.

But Dow figured the jury would understand if they heard Papuga's story of taunting teens and hundreds of phone calls to the police over the years complaining of escalating violence.

It worked and Papuga was acquitted of manslaughter and assault after three days of jury deliberations.

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Now it's former Gov. John G. Rowland, who resigned last month amid a federal corruption investigation and threatened impeachment, who is counting on Dow.

Those who know Dow say the former governor is getting an attorney whose folksy style scores him points in the courtroom.

"Juries love him," said Hugh Keefe, a New Haven defense attorney. "Willie is spectacular. He diffuses tense situations with great wit."

One of Dow's most immediate tasks is to decide whether to try to negotiate a plea deal for Rowland. Dow, a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor, won't comment on whether he has been talking to prosecutors.

"Willie is more than willing to take a case to trial, but I'd add that he knows when he has an obligation to cut a deal, when it's in his client's best interest," said M. Hatcher "Reese" Norris, who served with Dow in the U.S. Attorney's office in the 1970s.

Dow, a registered Democrat who describes himself as apolitical, was a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Colombia in the early 1960s when President Kennedy inspired his generation. He helped dig wells, vaccinate children and organize communities.

In Colombia, he witnessed abuses of authority by the church and government officials.

"It taught me a lot about power," Dow said. "It can be corrupt. People can be corrupted by power."

In his New Haven office, Dow listens to classical music and piano jazz, sometimes Gregorian chants. His desk is cluttered with books ranging from "The Sentencing Reform Act," to "How to Be a Gentleman."

The brick walls of his office are lined with photos of Dow's seven children, some making faces, and decades-old notes.

"Dad, this heart is fat and so are you. Love ya. Becky," his daughter wrote in one note.

Callers are greeted with an unusual message on his answering machine.

"Depending on the day, I'm either counting my blessings, cursing my fate or saying the rosary," Dow says.

The short message speaks volumes about Dow, who is described by friends and colleagues as down-to-earth, self-deprecating, witty and religious.

"I go to church," Dow said. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's like going to Foxwoods. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't."

The stakes could not be much higher these days for Dow. Investigators are looking at contract steering in Rowland's administration and gifts the former governor received from state contractors and employees.

Rowland hired Dow late last year on the recommendation of James K. Robertson Jr., an attorney who has known both men for years.

Dow reluctantly acknowledges the compliment of being recommended to defend a governor. "It's better than a sharp stick in the eye," he quipped.

He joked that his representation of Rowland may be mentioned in his obituary. When told that it probably will be, he went serious: "I'd prefer to be judged on how I raise my family."

His wife, Diane, a New Haven elementary school teacher, ribs him, telling him that all the good attorneys in Connecticut had already been hired by the time Rowland needed a lawyer.

Besieged by debt, Rowland has started a legal fund to pay his bills. Dow has been paid at least $30,000 and Rowland owes him much more, according to legislative documents.

Dow has a long history of taking on tough cases. He's representing a Branford woman accused of shooting her 7-year-old daughter to death and earlier defended Antonio Lasaga, a former Yale University professor who sexually assaulted a boy.

When he lost a fight to get graphic videotaped evidence thrown out, Dow knew it was time to cut a deal with prosecutors.

"Willie did a damn good job," said David Strollo, a state prosecutor who noted that the deal spared Lasaga the prospect of a much longer prison sentence. "Willie's a practical attorney. He really had nothing to work with. The evidence was overwhelming."

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Story Source: Record-Journal

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