WASHINGTON—In baseball terms, the first Roger Clemens trial was a rainout in the top of the first inning.
Not because it actually rained, but because one of the teams turned on the sprinkler and left it running.
Only two witnesses had been called last July when U.S. Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial, famously declaring that prosecutors had made a gaffe that even a “first-year law student” wouldn’t make.
First, metaphor fail. For a supposed sports writer, this is a pretty weak. If anything, it’s a balk, which is any number of illegal moves by a pitcher that result in a penalty against his team. In this case the federal prosecutors showed a video taped interview with Andy Pettitte’s wife in which she recounted what Pettitte had told her that Clemens had told him about steroids. If you think that’s gossip, you’re not alone. The judge had ruled the testimony inadmissible as “hear say”, which is the legal term for gossip.
To help make sure there’s not another misstep, the Justice Department now has five lawyers on the prosecution team, up from two at the first trial.
Got that? Five federal prosecutors working on a case where a baseball player is alleged to have lied to Congress about using steroids. You see, it’s illegal to lie during a Congressional hearing. In case you’re wondering, it’s NOT illegal for a Congresscritter to lie to you and me about, well anything. If it were, then sessions of Congress would likely have to be held in Leavenworth.
So, instead of prosecuting say, drug cartel members, organized crime figures, smugglers, and any sort of other criminal, they want to prosecute a baseball pitcher.
The prosecution has to be wary of the perception that the government has more important things to do than pursue than a costly case centered on a baseball player’s truthfulness. Some of the jurors in the first trial felt that trying the case a second time would be “a waste of taxpayers’ money at a time when we have significant fiscal problems in our country,” Walton told both sides last September, according to a newly discovered transcript.
Apparently, some of the jurors felt the same way as I do. I imagine that the prosecutors would have had a hard time ‘splaining the danger that Clemens posed to public safety.
Here’s a longer article on the story,
Indeed, the Clemens team has six lawyers working on the case, led by Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin, whose Rusty Hardin & Associates has represented sports stars such as quarterback Warren Moon, baseball star Wade Boggs and NBA great Scottie Pippen, each a Hall of Famer
Clemens has six lawyers, the government has five. How many would you or I be able to afford if the government decided that we had committed some heinous crime like tearing the tag off a mattress?
In my case, the answer would be zero. Which is what the government often counts on in federal cases. They have an unlimited amount of money (ours), to throw at any case that a federal prosecutor decides is worthy. Roger Clemens may not have unlimited amounts of money, but he has a lot of money. Hence he can afford a team of lawyers.
The Justice Department wants to be extra careful not only because of the first trial, he said, but also the botched prosecution of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, which infuriated trial judge Emmet G. Sullivan. The department withheld evidence from Stevens’ attorneys so often that Attorney General Eric Holder, in his first months on the job, asked that Steven’ conviction be overturned; Sullivan agreed. A 525-page report by a special prosecutor presented an unflattering glimpse behind the scenes of Stevens’ 2008 prosecution.
In case you don’t remember Ted Stevens was a US Senator from Alaska. Back in the Bush Administration, the government charged, tried, and convicted him of accepting a bribe in the form of work on one of his houses. Stevens was subject to ridicule in the press, loss of his Senate seat, and of course conviction in federal court. Turns out that the federal prosecutors had hidden testimony that called into questions the credibility of a key witness. The conviction was vacated and the prosecutors were fired, but interestingly they weren’t prosecuted, weren’t even disbarred? Why, you ask? Because the special prosecutor investigating the misconduct determined that the trial judge had not clearly told the prosecutors that they were required to follow the law.
Got that? Federal prosecutors frame a US Senator and escape punishment because the federal judge doesn’t specifically order them to follow the law. Which, presumably they know being lawyers and such. Yet, you, I, or Roger Clemens tell a story that the federal prosecutors don’t like and we’re indicted for perjury. That’s even if it’s a matter of you said A and I said B, and there is no proof of who is right. If the prosecutors like your story better than mine, it’s off to a federal grand jury and the almost sure to follow indictment. Most people end up pleading guilty to some charge because they can’t afford an attorney to fight the case for them. You might qualify for a federal public defender, but good luck with that.
So there, you, I, and maybe even Roger Clemens are convicted felons in federal court. Prison is a distinct possibility, even if it’s at a minimum security federal facility. But, it doesn’t end there. Now that you are a felon, you lose your right to possess firearms and vote. Interestingly, while you lose your Second Amendment Rights, you don’t lose your First Amendment Rights. Apparently, not all Rights are created equal.
Voters and taxpayers should be outraged by this, but mostly they aren’t even aware of it. Instead of being an election year issue, it’s just a blip on the sports page.
I’d like to think that the next Congress and President will act to reign in an out of control system, but I know better.
Your tax dollars at work, putting petty criminals (if that) in federal prison for minor offenses.