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Roger Clemens and Perjury: Bully, Braggart, Victim

4 years ago
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I am a lifelong, die-hard fan of the Boston Red Sox. So, naturally, I believe that former star pitcher Roger Clemens, who left the Sox and won championships with the New York Yankees, is guilty of far more heinous crimes against society than allegedly lying to Congress about steroid use. In fact, if I were drafting a bill of particulars against the former Cy Young Award winner, whose authentic No. 21 jersey still hangs in my son's closet, perjury would be far down the list, below Clemens' needless tantrum that got him ejected early in a 1990 playoff game against the Oakland A's and of course his memorable failure to finish off the New York Mets in the 1986 World Series.

But that's just me. The Justice Department, on the other hand, has just decided (after two otherwise eventful years) to spend some of its time and money and energy prosecuting Clemens for lying during his sworn testimony on Feb. 13, 2008, when he came to Capitol Hill, waived his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and babbled under oath. Don't you misremember that bizarre day? Clemens was seated just a few feet away from his accuser, his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who told a House panel that he injected the famous former player with steroids and human growth hormones. Clemens denied the charge up and down. Congress -- and evidently federal prosecutors and grand jurors -- chose to believe McNamee and not Clemens; another case of indictment for the cover-up and not the underlying crime.


Upon hearing the bad news for Clemens, my first reaction was: of all the meaty dishes weighing down the Justice Department's plate these days, why in the world would Attorney General Eric Holder choose to bite off such a tiny morsel? Clemens is no danger to society, he has already paid an enormous financial price for his testimony, and for his conduct he may not get what he probably cherishes most: a spot in Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame. If he's convicted of these charges, he'll likely face six months to a year in prison. Do you think he would today gladly trade that future hard time to get his reputation back? To get a chance at the Hall? I do.

"Our government cannot function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress," said Ronald C. Machen Jr., the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, who has brought the charges. "Today the message is clear: If a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences." It's true. Prosecutors talk all the time about how they have to bring these sorts of criminal cases against high-profile defendants from time to time to remind and educate the American people about their obligations to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth under oath. But Clemens' notoriety, and the exposure surrounding his testimony, already clearly had fulfilled that function

So why try Clemens and not Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind who languishes in custody awaiting some sort of adjudication? Why spend an ounce of DOJ energy indicting a guy over steroid use instead of helping solve the terrible problem of prison rape? How about taking some of the professionals now working on the Clemens case and assigning them to the white-collar crime section or (in the wake of the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico) to the environmental crimes section? Here's the official DOJ answer to my question: "With more than 100,000 employees working in different components and law enforcement agencies that focus on a range of priorities, the department can obviously do more than one thing at a time. It would be a mistake to look at any individual prosecution and use it to draw conclusions about any of the other areas in which the department regularly devotes resources."

You can judge for yourself whether you believe the prosecution of Clemens is a good use of Justice Department resources. What is beyond dispute, however, is that far more important people than Clemens have come to Capitol Hill, both before and after Clemens' testimony, and have been less than candid with the Congress about far more vital national issues than steroid use. So how about reassigning those Clemens prosecutors to look into allegations that oil company executives lied to Congress in 2005 or, more recently, that banking executives and/or administration officials lied to Congress in the wake of the economic meltdown? Indeed, just think of all the rascals, in and out of government, who may have lied to Congress, with apparent impunity, around the time that the Clemens circus came to town.

Take Alberto Gonzales, for example. Please. If Clemens' 2008 testimony was woeful, Gonzales' 2007 testimony about his role in the U.S. attorney scandal was outright laughable. No, really. Gonzales' testimony was so patently absurd and false that some of the senators who were questioning him literally laughed in the former attorney general's face. Yet there was no indictment; no use of Gonzales' high profile to teach the American people a lesson about the perils of lying under oath. I know we are dealing with apples (the Bush-era Justice Department) and oranges (the Obama-era Justice Department) but I still don't get the rationale behind the decision to go after Clemens after failing to go after a dubious congressional witness like Gonzales.

These facts make a mockery of this statement offered last Thursday by a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee: "Whether it's a member of the Cabinet, a CEO or a professional athlete, if there is evidence that someone has intentionally misled a congressional investigative committee, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. . . . There is no mechanism to justify lying to Congress." This is certainly true if you are a professional athlete -- Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada will, uh, testify to that. it is most certainly not true if you are part of the government's legal or political or financial establishment.

All of which is my way of saying that the Justice Department last week seems to have pulled off a miracle. It has made an athlete universally known as a bully and a braggart turn into a sort of an underdog and even, perhaps, a bit of a victim.

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39 Comments

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JoeNell

Folks, I love Roger and got to know him quite well back in the 90's when he played with the Red Sox (funny thing I had NO CLUE who Roger Clemems was when I first met him)....the team Spring trained in Ft Myers and I worked as a massage therapist at the resort hotel in which the team stayed, this was the year he had injured his throwing arm and stayed back 4 weeks for more rehab while the rest of the team started the season....anyway he came in and scheduled a massage one afternoon and I was open....that was the beginning of a several year relationship each Spring when the team came to town.....during those Springs I got to know Roger fairly well, met his wife and sons and had many discussions with him about his growing up and starting out playing ball as a young man....how much he really enjoyed "the Kids" at the games and how some of the adults and media really didn't understand or get it.....we talked about the professional sports and doping etc....and I will tell you he is a down to earth really nice person....I cannot believe that the man "took drugs"..... HGH is a hormone produced naturally by our pituitary gland and I know that it has been synthsized in a test tube to do what the natural does.....it has been used to hopefully prolong life by old folks and to enhance growth in young people not growing.....I don't see it as an "anabolic steroid" and if Rog took it I don't believe he believed it either....Leave this Man ALONE....we have bigger fish and more important issues to deal with than persecuting a baseball player albeit A GREAT MAN who pitched one heck of a ball......What is the DOJ and Congress doing wasting my $$$ over this....clean your own house, better do it soon too, because the American people are getting tired of your SHENANIGANS and the ballot box is just a few steps away

August 23 2010 at 9:25 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
michael

I agree its a terrible waste of taxpayers money to go after someone that has done so much for charity and the less fortunate people even helped some disabled veterans I had heard. Its just a shame what the government chooses to be its priorities, on how it wants to justify thier inept indespesible existence of thier jobs. I say its just a waste of taxpayers money and time and that thier are way more important things that the government should be going after you Know hardened criminals, illegal armed and dangerous trespassers, perverted stalkers, viscious destructive vandals, And I don't even know the guy but what is wrong with the priortites of government public servants????????? The USA is financially in meltdown condition. Borderline bankrupt. The creation of manufacturing jobs and saveing the remaining few property owners and working taxpayers is the #1 priority of the US government, the protection of our borders from illegal takeover from other nations people that we have to support once the break into our country should be priority # 2, Save the TAXPAYERS toss everybody that is not an American taxpayer out........Toss anybody in the government that missuses, and wastes taxpayers dollars out at the ballots this year and save A struggling American taxpayers home

August 23 2010 at 9:19 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
lthouspro5

WOW HE HAS DONE NOTHING MORE THAN ANY POLITICIAN HAS DONE THEY LIE ALL THE TIME WHAT DO YOU EXPECT LOOK WHO WE LEARN THINGS FROM WAY TO GO CONGRESS

August 23 2010 at 7:39 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
andreasschiff

I submitted a comment that was critical of the author Andrew Cohen. My comment was not published. Neither did the comment use any foul language, nor did it go off subject. The essence of the comment was very simple. When Andrew Cohen points out that he thinks that the legal infractions of Roger Clements, for example alleged purgery, are far less important than failed plays on the baseball field, he steps into the shoes of the fan, who is a big part of the problem by still supporting players that lied and cheated to win. If the fan would not condone it for the sake of winning, cheating would not be as rampant. I see the When Andrew Cohen essentially writes that pursuing an indictment for purgery is a waste of taxpayer's money, he tries to portray the government case like an unneccessary prosecution. Therefore I wrote that Andrew Cohen is part of the problem to clean baseball from the players who use illegal drugs, like Roger Clemens (allegedly) did. This was not a personal attack, but attack on the position that Andrew Cohen represents. As my first comment was not published, I hope this one will be published. I believe there is a fine line between editing and censorship, especially when the editing protects the author who wrote a piece from criticism regarding the piece.

August 23 2010 at 5:09 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dardog321

Steroids and other banned performance enhancers are a blight on sport and athletes at all levels of competition. Athletes who use banned substances risk physical harm themselves and cause themselves irreparable psychological damage by betraying their own core beliefs. The consequences range from death and health problems to depression and suicide. Profession athletes who use banned substances set the stage for drug use in young athletes at all levels of competition from club sport to college and high school. The black market sale of these illegal substances quickly finds distribution outside the professional sport community. Use of steroids and other banned substances for performance enhancement is cheating. It is illegal. It goes against the very idea of sport and should be punished with expulsion from sport and legal action.

August 23 2010 at 3:36 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
wendell

CLEMENS IS A VICITM CONGRESS GOT BETTER WORK TO DO THAN GO AFTER CLEMENS KEEP OUT OF SPORTS CLEAN UP YOUR HOUSE IN WASHINGTON

August 23 2010 at 2:26 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
hsena

theirs no reason for congress haveing their nose stuck in sports. they can't keep their own house in order so stop telling others how it should be done. these problems needs to be handled my the sport not the government.

August 23 2010 at 2:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Hi there Diane!

We live in an increasingly competive society. Students of all ages are seeking ways to gain the edge over their peers athletically (as well as academically). People like Barry Bonds and Roger Clements who have elevated themselves in their accomplishments and contributions to the point of being nationally recognized also set themselves up to be emulated by many of these competing students. And lets face it...Sports is far more captivating than government officials(like Alberto Gonzales) for the general masses...or at least that is my belief anyway. Consequently we pay attention to the athletes who command our attention. The overwhelming evidence of these athletes lying under oath and in some cases furthering that lie in a published book, suggest a narcisistic means to their end----Lie if you want to be the best---Lie louder, make noise, be the best at it---Lie to make money---the list goes on. Although Alberto Gonzales is a national figure head, I am of the opinion that his actions make less of an impressionable affect on the up and coming students and athletes of today. Justice is a lesson taught over and over and it seems the world needs to be retaught...REIMINDED of our responsibility to make the world less complicated with the simple truth. Sports appeals to the masses...Perhaps that is what drives the Attorney General? Athletes, like all of us, are held to a definite sense of ethical standard that should be acted on. In such standards, each individual hopefully fosters a habit directed toward CONSCIOUS reflection on TRUTH and recognizes the consequences make life easier.

August 23 2010 at 2:00 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
D. Kelly

A trial is a big waste of taxpayer time and money. Some idiot in DC has to set some priorities for this country. Two wars, economic crisis, terrorist, Post office is bankrupt, Social Security issues, debt, out of control spending.....and the Justice Department is worrying about a few warts on a frog!! Is there common sense anymore?

August 23 2010 at 2:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jjvacny

Well written article. Maybe somebody in the DOJ will read it.

August 23 2010 at 1:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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