Roger Clemens acquitted of all charges
Roger Clemens was acquitted Monday of all charges in his lengthy perjury trial, just blocks from where he had been accused of lying to Congress about having never taken performance-enhancing drugs.
The New York Times
/ WASHINGTON — Roger Clemens, who intimidated even the toughest batters while becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball history, was acquitted Monday of all charges that he lied to Congress in 2008 when he insisted he never used steroids or human growth hormone during his long career.
The verdict, which came on the second full day of deliberations in U.S. District Court, was a significant defeat for the government in its second failed attempt at convicting Clemens and will most likely fuel criticism of government prosecutors for investing time and money in cases involving athletes accused of doping.
As the six counts of not guilty were announced in the packed courtroom, Clemens bit his lip and appeared to wipe tears from his eyes. After the judge said, "Mr. Clemens, you are free to go," Clemens hugged his lawyers and his wife. He huddled with his sons, who wept with relief. His lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said: "We've waited a long time for this. Long time coming."
Clemens, 49, a seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in his league, had been charged with one count of obstructing Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury in connection with his testimony to a House committee about whether he used drugs. If Clemens had been convicted on all counts, he would have faced up to 30 years in federal prison.
Each day for nine weeks of the trial, Clemens had remained stoic as he sat at the defense table and watched. But Monday that composure crumbled. His hands shaking, he told reporters that he was "very thankful," and he broke down when he began speaking about his 24-year career, which ended in 2007 with the New York Yankees.
"I put a lot of hard work into that career," he said after fighting back tears. A fan in the crowd of more than 100 yelled, "Way to go, Rocket!"
Prosecutors left the courthouse without commenting on yet another disappointment in the investigation or prosecution of high-profile athletes for crimes related to doping. In July, Clemens' initial trial ended in a mistrial on only the second day of testimony when prosecutors showed the jury inadmissible evidence.
The U.S. attorney's office in Washington sent a statement thanking jurors and prosecutors and saying, "We respect the judicial process and the jury's verdict."
Federal prosecutors in San Francisco last year obtained only one conviction on four counts against former slugger Barry Bonds. He was convicted of obstructing justice when he misled a federal grand jury investigating use of performance-enhancing drugs among elite athletes. He was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest but is appealing his conviction. A two-year federal investigation of cycling champion Lance Armstrong regarding doping-related crimes was dropped in February.
The jurors for Clemens' trial — eight women and four men who described themselves as largely uninterested in baseball — declined to speak to reporters.
He and his sons left the courtroom red-eyed from crying, but laughing when Clemens asked them how his hair looked. "Sticking straight up, isn't it?" he said as his sons smiled.
All along, though, Clemens said he knew even an acquittal would not salvage his reputation, which he said had been permanently damaged by the government's accusations that he cheated by using performance-enhancing drugs to prolong his career. How it will affect his place in baseball history is unclear.
His name will soon appear on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. The damage to Clemens' reputation may keep him from receiving enough votes to win induction; he needs to be named on 75 percent of the ballots.