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February 10, 2009

Another prominent (minority) athlete in trouble for lying about steriod use

The latest news on the steroid litigation front has to make Roger Clemens plenty worried. Here is today's steroid development as reported in this Bloomberg article:

Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada was charged with lying to Congress about performance- enhancing drug use in Major League Baseball. Tejada “unlawfully, willingly and knowingly” failed to tell everything he knew about an unidentified player’s use of steroids and human growth hormone during meetings with the congressional investigators in August 2005, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said in a criminal information filed today in Washington.

A criminal information can’t be filed in a felony case without the consent of the defendant, according to Sullivan & Cromwell attorney Karen Patton Seymour, former chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan. “Typically, consent is given when a plea agreement has been reached or is very close,” Seymour said in an interview.

Tejada, a citizen of the Dominican Republic who has a U.S. work permit, is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Washington tomorrow at 11 a.m., a spokesman for the court said.

I didn't even know that Tejada was in the cross-hairs of federal investigators, and it will be interesting to see what kind of deal might have already been put together before this story broke. 

Whatever the particulars are related to Tejada, this latest federal charge makes me even more eager to see Roger Clemens subject to federal prosecution for his apparently false testimony to Congress.  Few persons were even aware that prominent minority defendants like Marion Jones and Barry Bonds and now Miguel Tejada ever testified about their alleged steroid use.  But Roger Clemens brazenly asked to testify before Congress and then offered testimony that did not seem at all credible (at least to me).  The percpetion of equal justice will be poorly served if only prominent minority altheles face charges for lying about steroid use.

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The percpetion of equal justice will be poorly served if only prominent minority altheles face charges for lying about steroid use

Interesting. If someone's willing to jump to conclusions based on a sample size of 3 people who did different things at different times, I doubt that that person holds any "perception of equal justice" to begin with.

Posted by: ab | Feb 10, 2009 7:49:55 PM

C'mon Doug, everyone knows the Clemens hearing was a show. The Tejada thing looks to have been more serious.

Would I care if Clemens got prosecuted? No. Not in the slightest. But this faux equality kick you're on is laughable.

Take a look at the outrageously lenient sentences handed down in the Long Beach Halloween racial assaults if you want to get worked up about the appearance of equal justice.

Posted by: federalist | Feb 10, 2009 9:57:47 PM

Perception is reality, even for such a highbrow subject as federal sentencing. Thus, the point raised by Doug is relevant and cogent.

Posted by: Mark | Feb 11, 2009 3:14:09 AM

IMO all the steroids hype is a diversionary charade. White collar prosecutions declined 18% in the last five years despite the fact that Wall Street's full of crooks, but DOJ is prosecuting Miguel Tejada because he didn't snitch on some other player? Priorities, people!

I've never seen a story about which the media and pols cared so much and the public cared about so little. Major league baseball sets new attendance records every year, TV viewership is up - basically nobody gives a tinker's damn what performance enhancing drugs are used by consenting adults unless there's an opportunity for some Congressman or prosecutor to get on TV grandstanding about it. As though this nation doesn't have much bigger problems ...

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 11, 2009 8:12:33 AM

C'mon, federalist, everyone saw Clemens actively lying to Congress under oath after having been given multiple chances to avoid testifying (remember Clemens and his lawyer requested the hearing after the Mitchell report). For that reason and others, Clemens crime seems MUCH more serious than the allegations against Tejada.

Unless you explain in much more details, federalist, why you think Tejada should be prosecuted and Clemens should escape prosecution, you will have confirmed by worries that you are willing to give white offenders a pass if they do not threaten your own biased perceptions of public safety. My worries in this regard was triggered by your limited concerns about lenient drunk driving sentences and now confirmed by your apparent desire to give Clemens a pass for a crime that, to my eye, is much worse than anything done by anyone else caught up in the federal steroid investigations.

Please provide me with an "objective" account for your different reactions here.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 11, 2009 9:22:22 AM

There is is a strange characteristic about some of these athletes. They chose to, agree to, and clamour to, testify about their personal private medical care issues. If they cannot get by with taking the Fifth (because immunity statutes are based on taking the Fifth Amendment and override it) then they should consider taking the Ninth-- on their right of privacy.

My second point. Why the fuss over steroids (legal in A. Rod's case) when this nation produces tons of tobacco (legal) which kills millions of people worldwide? At this moment container ships are off-loading tons of Marlboros in Colombia while we condemn the Colombians for growing coca-- and spray poison on the peasants in their coca fields from airplanes.

Posted by: mpb | Feb 11, 2009 9:25:23 AM

Perhaps there are times, Doug, when the response to unfair prosecutions should be to reduce the number of wasteful, pointless and racially skewed prosecutions instead of expanding the net so they catch white folks too.

After all, you've recently written about the racial disparities in drug war enforcement, which I wholeheartedly agree is a problem. But in that case you aren't "eager" for white folks to be incarcerated at similar rates, but rather insist that fewer minorities should be imprisoned. Why do you take a different approach here?

I'd rather prosecutorial decisions were based solely on the culpability of the defendant, not on some politicized, PR-based calculation about how it would make the prosecutors look.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Feb 11, 2009 9:49:53 AM

First of all, Doug, I did not say that Clemens should not be prosecuted. So there is no issue there. My reaction to the Tejada prosecution and the Clemens lack of prosecution is one of indifference. Same with Palmeiro and all the others.

My point re Clemens/Tejada is that there may be a difference in what the powers that be think in terms of lying in a sham hearing or lying in an actual investigation. But once again. I. Don't. Care.

You had made the point about selective prosecution, which I consider overblown and needlessly inflammatory. That engendered my response.

Interesting you talk about my lack of care about drunk driving sentences. I don't know what you want me to say. Do I think we can do a better job of dealing with drunk driving in America--yes I do. But there isn't a lot of controversy in here about it, so I don't feel the need to respond. What I think surpassing strange is that you point to our lenience on drunk driving as an argument to be nicer to hardened criminals. I guess we gotta let rapists go since we let too many drunk drivers off the hook.

Try answering the issues relating to the lenient prosecution of the Long Beach Halloween hate criminals . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Feb 11, 2009 9:56:09 AM

"minority"??? Talk inflaming racial prejudices. Plenty of white people are also prosecuted for perjury and lying to federal officials. Did you forget, Scooter Libby was white. So was Martha Stewart, and so on!!

I have lost a lot of respect for you!

Posted by: gb | Feb 11, 2009 10:05:57 AM

A few quick responses to federalist and gb:

1. Clemens' perjury before Congress was the most brazen I can recall (perhaps since Bill Clinton's finger-pointing). Unlike Bonds and Libby and Stewart and Lil' Kim and Palmero and Tejada, all of whom were forced into situations in which it seems they (stupidly) lied to try to cover up prior poor decisions, Clemens made a big deal about wanting to "clear his name" before Congress, then he refused repeated opportunities to go away, and then told a series of tall tales that seem completely false to average fans like me. Clemens' efforts to use the public forum of Congress to serve his interests and then to brazenly lie under oath is, in my view, the worst kind of perjury offense I can imagine. Thus, for the sake of deterrence and for ensuring respect for the law, I think Clemens should be the first one prosecuted for perjury, not the last. (By the way, I remain hopeful that Clemens will be charged with perjury, and the Tejada news makes me more confident in this regard.)

2. The point on drunk driving, federalist, returns to your repeated stated concerns about releasing criminals without a sufficient focus on public safety. I agree with your fundamental concern, but I think this concern should be turned more toward drunk driving sentences (which are often too light) than to long drug sentences (which are often too harsh). Repeat drunk drivers are often the most dangerous and "hardened" of criminals, and yet you apparently fail to see why your stated concerns about public safety should be leading you --- along with the folks at MADD --- to try to stir up more controversy in this arena. I often raise this point on the blog because I perceive a bit of unconscious bias in the eagerness of so many to lock up minority drug offenders for decades, but not be too concerned with repeat drunk drivers getting multiple chance to harm the public.

3. My goal, gb, is not to "inflam[e] racial prejudices," but rather to highlight the troublesome pattern that has SO FAR emerged in the federal government's steriod-investigation prosecutions. Two of the most prominent black athletes in modern times --- Barry Bonds and Marion Jones --- have had their personal and professional lives dramatically altered by federal prosecutions for perjury concerning their steriod use. And now, out to the blue, another prominent minority offender is subject to federal prosecution. And yet no very prominent white athlete (including the brazen Roger Clemens) has yet been subject to a federal prosecution in these steroid investigations (save the largely unknown female cyclist Tammy Thomas). As noted above, I am hopeful that Roger Clemens will be eventually subject to prosecution, but until he is I cannot help but express my concern about the "complexion" of which very prominent athletes have so far been prosecuted and which ones have not (yet) been subject to the federal criminal justice system.

4. Finally, the Long Beach incident you stress, federalist, is very old news. It is an interesting story and one that seems troublesome, but it lacks the national impact on societal perceptions raised by the topic here being discussed. And, again, the fact that you recall and raise a long-ago case about black offenders getting a break reinforces yet again that only certain kinds of disparity get you concerned.

Posted by: Doug B. | Feb 11, 2009 10:59:57 AM

Re: Drunk driving--as I have said, I think we have a ways to go. Repeat drunk drivers, particularly those with very elevated BACs need to be punished--severely. I don't know what else you want me to say.

Re: Long Beach memory. The race card does not intimidate me in the slightest. You see, I don't think that the race of prisoners matters in the slightest. If you commit a crime, you do the time. What would concern me is widespread unequal enforcement of the law, not numbers-based handwringing. There are lots of arguments that the crack-powder distinction is wrong from the standpoint of an efficient use of resources and fairness--but since I don't think that race animated the enactment of the law (given the support of members of the CBC for the law), I don't think that, simply because it happens to fall on criminals of a certain ethnic group, it is suspect. Meth laws are tough too, and I don't care that white criminals bear the burden of enforcement of those tough laws. I am for tough criminal laws generally.

What irritates me greatly is that there seems to be a perception that because certain groups of people are imprisoned in greater numbers than their representation in the population then the system is necessarily biased. That kind of thinking is intellectually lazy and undermines support for tough criminal laws which I generally favor. I also note that many minority criminals benefit from more lenient jurisdictions (of course, such kindness to violent criminals tends to be meanness to law-abiding minority citizens, since most crime is intra-racial). For someone who is so worked up about raw numbers, that issue never seems to hit your radar screen, Doug.

That view also gave rise to some pathetic posturing in the infamous Jena Six case. Vicious thugs became victims. And a presidential candidate dismissed the six-on-one stomping of an unconscious victim a "schoolyard fight". Of course, we cannot question Obama's race-neutrality there, can we? But I'm the bad guy because I want tough laws and I question you imputing bias because Clemens hasn't been prosecuted. Ok, got it.

With respect to Long Beach, well, gee, it happened to stick in my mind. Perhaps it's because I live in an urban area and don't really feel like suffering racially-motivated violence only to have the system screw me after or maybe because it's an anecdote that runs counter the "criminal justice system is racist" meme that we constantly hear. I also remember Lenell Jeter from a 60 Minutes show a long long time ago--does that make me a bleeding heart?

Posted by: federalist | Feb 11, 2009 12:35:13 PM

Our criminal justice system is a joke. We are waisting taxpayers dollars in the middle of a recession, prosecuting athletes for taking performance enhancements. Its ridiculous to me. Who cares you &

Posted by: TG | Feb 12, 2009 1:05:16 AM

Is it a waste to prosecute people for doing soneting illegal? Taking steroids or HGH is illegal, period. It was illegal when Clemens did it. It was illegal when A-Rod did it. I get tired of people saying it was OK because it wasn't against the rules of baseball since it actually was. Steroids were implicitly banned in the early 70's. They were banned in 1991 by baseball. Just because they weren't tested for prior to 2004 doesn't mean they were not against the rules. And of course baseballs' rules have nothing to do with the illegality of steroids.
And as for the prosecutions for lying, what is wrong with demonstrating that rich, famous athletes can't use their money and celebrity to get away with lying under oath to Congress or law enforcement? Isn't it a common complaint about the justice system that the rich get away with their crimes while the little guy gets screwed?

Posted by: Keith B. | Feb 12, 2009 11:12:52 AM

I watched the entire Roger Clemens testimony, as well as the goofy ex-cop ergo trainer who tried to rat him out. The trainer was a very uncredible witness and was caught in all sorts of contradictions. Clemens was credible. I have not seen any lies thrown up in his face then or now. The strangest thing about the hearing was the Chairman. This Waxman guy from California was up there being snide and discourteous. He learned his trade from Joe McCarthy. The evening news that same day came out with very strange and inaccurate conclusions. One of the commentors above (Doug) says that "everyone saw Clemens actively lying to Congress under oath.."
I did not see it that way-- and I sat home on a weekday and actually saw all of it on TV.

Posted by: mpb | Feb 13, 2009 6:40:52 AM

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