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August 19, 2010

Roger Clemens to be indicted for perjury for false statement to Congress

This breaking story from the New York Times interests me as a baseball fan and as a criminal law and sentencing professor.  It is headlined "Clemens to Be Indicted for Perjury in Doping Testimony," and gets started this way:

Federal authorities have decided to indict Roger Clemens on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, according to two people briefed on the matter. An announcement is expected shortly.

The indictment comes nearly two and half years after Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee testified under oath at a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, directly contradicting each other about whether Clemens had used the banned substances.

Anyone want to predict (1) if Clemens will even consider a plea, and (2) what kind of sentence might be offered by the feds in an effort to get him to plea?

UPDATE:  A copy of the 19-page, six-count indictment in United States v. William R. Clemens is available at this link.

MOREIn this new piece at FoxSports, legal analyst Robert Becker explains why he predicts "that Roger Clemens will spend more than a year of his life in a federal prison."

August 19, 2010 at 02:28 PM | Permalink

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Comments

If the Federal prosecutors thought it was hard to get a jury to convict a former Governor of Illinois, just wait until they try to convict one of the most famous professional baseball players of all time! Juries don't like to convict famous celebrities, and give them the benefit of many doubts.

Posted by: Jim Gormley Gormley | Aug 19, 2010 3:07:32 PM

Mandatory voir dire from both sides: "Are you a Mets fan?"

Posted by: Res ipsa | Aug 19, 2010 5:39:21 PM

i think they have gotten totally rediculous with this bogus charges. i'd love to see one of them like this guy who's loaded get off and then turn around and sue the govt for billions for the crime of CRIMINAL STUPIDITY!

If you have a REAL CHARGE make it! then PROVE IT! otherwise F off.

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 20, 2010 12:39:31 AM

This is a ridiculously pointless exercise. Lying before Congress is a national pastime and during the Bush Administration, Condi Rice, Karl Rove and other key officials weren't even required to testify under oath on the most critical issues facing the nation (9/11, etc.) so that they could engage in mendacity with impunity. But they're going to spring a perjury trap on Roger Clemens? Has Obama's DOJ solved all our other problems to so great an extent that this flotsam is all they have to pursue? It seems to me like the USA just wants a chance to get their name in the paper.

If there's a lesson from this it's that you have a right to remain silent on such matters that everyone should ALWAYS exercise, even when one thinks they're innocent. Instead Clemens cooperated and look what it got him.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 20, 2010 8:52:09 AM

"Our government cannot function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress", said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. in a statement accompanying the indictment. (www.washingtonpost.com) That sure sounds utilitarian to me! The 'government cannot function' clearly looking towards the future for the greater good of society. But then Machen continues to say "Today the message is clear: if a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences." That sure sounds retributivist! Wrongdoing requires punishment!

I think this statement alone defines what I've been thinking...nothing is clear-cut! A little bit of this and a little bit of that!

Posted by: Luke@CrimLaw | Aug 20, 2010 8:57:00 AM

Ah the tribulations of federal authorities. So many persons of interest. So little time.

Posted by: John K | Aug 20, 2010 9:10:24 AM

hmm guess this means we are going to be seeing 1,000's of former govt officials from the last 12 years running through congress and testifying under OATH!

""Our government cannot function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress", said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. in a statement accompanying the indictment. (www.washingtonpost.com)"

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 20, 2010 10:30:33 AM

"This is a ridiculously pointless exercise."

Tell it like it is "Grits". Well said here and more so on your Blog.

Sounds like a B.O. wannabe trying to make his bones. Please stop wasting taxpayer's money "protecting" us from the dastardly criminals like Clemmons and Martha and go after someone who is a real threat to society.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 20, 2010 10:38:04 AM

Its all about the FEDS. Has nothing to do with America...Thats the point the FEDS are making, we're #1 and you aren't...Oh yeah, thanks for funding us...NOT...

Posted by: Abe | Aug 20, 2010 10:51:17 AM

defense attorney

Clemens has counsel sophisticated in the ways of the federal criminal justice system. I would think there were months of plea discussions between the government and Clemens that preceded the indictment. One could guess that the government wants a period of incarceration and Clemens won't agree to it.

Posted by: steve | Aug 20, 2010 10:59:02 AM

"One could guess that the government wants a period of incarceration and Clemens won't agree to it."

So the next question would be....Have they started the usual tactics of stacking charges and threatening his wife and/or others close to him if he does not cave in to the threat and take a plea?

Posted by: Anon | Aug 20, 2010 1:08:25 PM

Although I do think that pro athletes need to be held accountable against the performance-enhancing drug ban, it still seems strange that Congress is the one dealing with it. It's not like they have other, more pressing matters to deal with that, such as unemployment, war, immigration, etc.

But I suppose that is besides the point, about the issue at hand. Clemens lied, he should be punished. As my mom used to always remind me with "oh what wicked webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive".

Posted by: J.W. | Aug 20, 2010 1:27:18 PM

A few thoughts:

1. How odd that in a thread about a charge that Clemmons committed perjury, not one post addresses the evidence about whether he did or did not commit perjury.

2. To a narrow extent, I find myself in agreement with Grits and John K. Grits says, "Has Obama's DOJ solved all our other problems to so great an extent that this flotsam is all they have to pursue?" John makes what I take to be a similar point.

With terror plots being hatched and meth dealers cooking and selling their brew, one must indeed wonder what the priorities are here.

3. On the other hand, Grits also says, "But they're going to spring a perjury trap on Roger Clemens?" That is wide of the mark. Clemens, if I understand it, VOLUNTEERED to testify; he was not there under the compulsion of a subpoena. That is not a "trap" under any comprehensible definition.

4. Grits also says, "Instead Clemens cooperated and look what it got him." Of course this depends entirely on the merits. If he told the truth, Grits has a point. If he lied, that is not cooperation.

5. The ever-analytical Anon chimes in with, "Sounds like a B.O. wannabe trying to make his bones."

Actually, I don't think it sounds a bit like Barack Obama.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 20, 2010 5:15:49 PM

"Actually, I don't think it sounds a bit like Barack Obama."

No, I never expected the ego personified to think any such thing but it sure sounds a lot like another B.O. that we all know and love.

Does anyone have any inkling of an idea that after waiting two years, the fact that his former lawyer Lanny Breuer now heads the criminal division for the Justice Dept with his "inside info" has anything to do with the decision.

Did I mention a B.O. wannabe trying to make his bones?

Posted by: Anon | Aug 20, 2010 5:54:10 PM

I agree with Bill Otis that this doesn’t sound like an Obama-specific prosecution. They were working on Clemens for years, and finally the case was ripe. Whatever you may think of Obama, fan or foe, he is not sitting in the Oval Office trying to figure out which retired athletes he can indict.

I do agree that this is a ridiculous waste of the government’s time, but remember, Congress decided to investigate the use of steroids in baseball long before most of us had even heard of Barack Obama. I also agree with Bill Otis that Clemens did not have to testify; having chosen to do so, he was obligated to do so truthfully.

Now, even assuming that Clemens lied through his teeth, I am not sure I would bother with it. Then again, there is an awful lot that the DOJ wastes its time on, and unfortunately this is nothing new.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Aug 20, 2010 7:47:46 PM

why marc!

" I also agree with Bill Otis that Clemens did not have to testify; having chosen to do so, he was obligated to do so truthfully."

Our govt has been lieing with every breath they take for YEARS....sorry till they clean up their own house they have no right LEGAL or MORAL to say a word about anyone else.

but i agree in this day and age the only thing to say to anyone from any branch of the govt who shows up to ask ANYTHING.

is KISS OFF! see MY LAWYER!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 21, 2010 2:10:52 AM

rodsmith -

I agree that the government lies. The best example is the current head of the government, who campaigned as a post-partisan but, as Michael Gerson observed in a column in the Washington Post yesterday, "passed his agenda in a steady march of party-line votes and strong-arm legislative maneuvers. The candidate who [claimed] to transcend partisan divisions is viewed in a recent Democracy Corps poll as 'too liberal' by 57 percent of likely voters. The candidate who said he would 'fundamentally change the way Washington works' has seen public distrust of government grow to pre-French Revolutionary levels." As the recent escapades of Reps. Rangel and Waters have shown, there has been no change in the way Washington works, except perhaps that it's become worse. Indeed the horse trading and vote buying (the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase as payoffs for votes on Obamacare being only the most promient examples) is rampant.

Still, while your premise is correct, your conclusion goes too far. You say, "... till they clean up their own house they have no right LEGAL or MORAL to say a word about anyone else." Actually, they have the moral right and legal duty to do a good deal more than merely "say" something to other people.

I have my doubts about this Clemens indictment, but there are still people in that same Texas judicial district cooking and selling meth and ripping off government contracts to line their own pockets. That the Obama administration engages in the sleazy practices it loudly promised to end, or sometimes uses the Justice Department in very questionable ways, does not create a free pass for people dealing in dangerous drugs, or for swindlers and thieves. These people still deserve jail, and the public still deserves protection.

Democracy consigns us to live with less than perfect government officials. Sometimes, they are a great deal less than perfect, and now is one of those times IMO. But democracy also has the virtues of its defects, and one of those virtues is the moral confidence to continue to act against criminals even when our leaders fall short.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 21, 2010 9:07:44 AM

sorry bill but i disagree. What we have now is basically a couple of crooks.

NEITHER has a leg to stand on.

Our govt is the criminal who has just robbed a bank who is now at the police station trying to file criminal charges on the mugger who just took his loot from the robbery!

Sorry until there is a netural 3rd party who can arrest them both it's a wash.

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 21, 2010 1:37:31 PM

rodsmith --

So what should we do with our robbers, swindlers, strongarms and meth dealers? Tell them to have at it until we get a more honest government? I hear you, but I'd love to know what you would want people to do to protect themselves consistent with the rule of law. Believe me, I'm all ears.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 21, 2010 3:05:24 PM

there is a small diff. those people your talking about robbers and so on have comitted a crime against society and are being convicted under the law.


him on the other hand has not comitted a CRIME agaisnt society they say he LIED to them. that is his crime. At the same time we have 1,000,000 of bits of evidence our govt has been LIEING TO THE WHOLE COUNTRY! so why then wouldnt' it be perfectly legal for the average citizen to lie to the govt! after all they get their autority from US! therefore if it's ok for them to lie to US it must be legal for us to lie to THEM.

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 21, 2010 11:22:48 PM

but what it all boils down to is they are a bunch of crooked hypocritial lieing son of bitches who think the law applies to everyone but THEM!

i cant' wait to see their expressions when they finaly realize that is wrong which will probably be when they are lined up against the nearest wall and offered a blindfold!

Of course by then it will be too late for them and the COUNTRY!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 21, 2010 11:24:44 PM

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