Legal Briefing: Roger Clemens Looks Guilty as Charged

roger clemens charged with perjury
roger clemens charged with perjury

A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

The Rocket Indicted for Perjury

Someone lied to Congress during the 2008 hearings on steroid use in baseball -- it was either Roger Clemens or his former trainer and friend Brian McNamee. Clemens has said before -- and repeated Thursday -- that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee, however, claims that he injected Clemens (and Clemens's wife) with such drugs. The six-count indictment against Clemens, which was announced yesterday, makes it clear who the government thinks was lying -- and even a cursory look at the public record shows why.

As part of George Mitchell's investigation into steroid use in baseball, McNamee testified that three players used performance-enhancing drugs: Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Roger Clemens. Pettitte and Knoblauch both contritely admitted their use of the drugs; only Clemens denied it.

McNamee gave investigators syringes that were found to contain steroids and Clemens's DNA. In this "he said, he said" battle over drug use, McNamee has significant corroboration, while Clemens has none. It is, however, remotely possible that McNamee, reportedly a "long-time friend" of the Rocket, instead holds such a deep hatred for the guy that he's trying to destroy his reputation and chances of getting into the Hall of Fame by lying about Clemens's steroid use.

So let's look at a different source of evidence about Roger Clemens and steroids: his career. I have to confess, as a long-time Yankee fan, I hate Clemens. Yes, I know he eventually became a Yankee and won a lot of big games for us, but for years, in all his young glory days -- through all those games that made George Steinbrenner crave him -- Clemens was a Red Sox who consistently beat the Yankees. Eventually Clemens got "old" -- 33 -- and the Red Sox let him go. Silly Red Sox.

Clemens would go on to play another 11 seasons, seemingly improving as he got older. Two of his best seasons, in which he won over 80% of his games, occurred when he was 38 and 41. Unlike most pitchers who pitch into their 40s, Clemens wasn't a knuckleballer or other soft-throwing-but-tricky pitcher; he remained the Rocket, throwing 95-plus-mph fastballs. How on earth could his body do that unassisted?

I became convinced Clemens was using steroids when he inexplicably charged Mike Piazza and threw a bat at him -- pure "roid rage." I've never seen a ballplayer lose his cool like that.

Clemens theoretically faces 30 years in prison, although sentencing guidelines mean he would serve more like 15 to 21 months if convicted. And, possibly more painful to Clemens, he would fail to get into the Hall of Fame. Given that Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers ever (just as Barry Bonds is one of the great hitters), it'll be unfortunate if he doesn't make it in. But if Mark McGuire's failure is prologue, and Clemens did use steroids, he won't be in Cooperstown.

When Clemens testified, many attorneys wondered why his legal advisors let him say what he said? My guess is they had no choice. I doubt Clemens would have listened to advice to remain silent. He seems too determined to publicly assert his innocence.

And in the Business of Law

The attorney layoffs continue: Townsend and Townsend and Crew laid off 34 people, including nine attorneys. Meanwhile, some deferred associates are enjoying their firm-subsidized public interest work so much they are reexamining their futures, reports the New York Times. Frankly, those attorneys will be lucky if they have the option to choose in this economy.