Longtime prosecutor John Dowdy abruptly departs U.S. Attorney's Office


Career prosecutor John Dowdy resigned over the weekend, effective immediately, from the U.S. Attorney's Office for Mississippi's Southern District.

The office had no comment on his departure.

Although his departure was swift after a 28-year career in the office, Dowdy said the decision was not a sudden one.

"This is a move I had been contemplating for about three or four months," he told the Sun Herald. "I just felt like it was the right time for me to make a move. I've got a couple of ventures I'm looking at. In the meantime, I'm trying to kick back and determine what move is best for me and figure out what the next chapter of my life holds."

Dowdy, who lives in the Jackson area, said he will continue to practice law.

Dowdy's career at the U.S. Attorney's Office started before he graduated from Mississippi College School of Law in 1990, when he went to work as an intern under former U.S. Attorney George Phillips, now deceased.

Early on, Dowdy helped with investigations of state public service commissioners convicted of bribery, and the murder conspiracy that led to the shooting deaths in 1987 of former Circuit Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, former Biloxi Councilwoman Margaret Sherry.

Dowdy headed the U.S. attorney's criminal division beginning in 2004, then served as court-appointed U.S. attorney from January 2011 until President Barack Obama's pick for the job, Gregory Davis, started work in April 2012. Dowdy then returned to his job as head of the criminal division.

Dowdy, 50, most recently oversaw the prosecution of Bill Walker, former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, and associates on public corruption charges. And he supervised the bribery investigation of former Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps and associates. Epps and others have pleaded guilty in the case.

Dowdy developed a love of the outdoors during his youth in Gulfport, and particularly enjoyed prosecuting wildlife and environmental crimes. In the 1990s, he prosecuted a notorious case involving the use of the toxic chemical methyl parathion to spray Jackson County homes for roaches.

More recently, Dowdy has devoted his time to a massive BP fraud case set for trial July 18. He was lead prosecutor on the case against San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts, legal associates and BP claims workers on the Coast. Sheila Wilbanks, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Jackson, said a second prosecutor likely will be appointed to work on the case with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Rushing, who is based in Gulfport.

Dowdy says he has every confidence Rushing will do a good job with the case.

Attorney Remy Orozco of Gulfport, court-appointed to represent defendant Abbie Ngyuen, said: "While it was surprising to hear of Mr. Dowdy's resignation, we hope that this does not have a bearing on the hard trial dates the judge set in this matter. Abbie (Nguyen) has maintained her innocence for the past two years and we have always maintained that the government was overreaching when they moved to indict her."

Watts, who is representing himself, also is anxious to go to trial because he has been dogged by allegations of wrongdoing since federal agents searched his law office in February 2013.