What sports fans have been expecting for over two years finally happened Thursday as an indictment alleging perjury and obstruction of justice was handed down by a Washington D.C. grand jury against Roger Clemens. Perhaps the only surprise from the indictment is that it took so long.
We were told back in law school that a good prosecutor can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. That's primarily because the only evidence presented to a grand jury comes from the prosecution and potential defendants aren't allowed to have their attorneys present during the grand jury investigation.
Having said that, it's probably time for Clemens to start worrying. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, is known for antics that a Washington, D.C. court won't be as willing to endure as we are here in Texas. Regardless, both continue to proclaim Rocket's innocence.
Hardin said Thursday that both he and Clemens have been waiting for this indictment and they welcome the chance to take their case before a jury. Clemens could accept a plea, but Hardin said Clemens has rejected a deal previously offered to him by the Feds.
Clemens took Twitter Thursday saying, "I never took HGH or Steroids. And I did not lie to Congress. I look forward to challenging the Governments accusations, and hope people will keep an open mind until trial. I appreciate all the support I have been getting. I am happy to finally have my day in court."
Hardin also made the point that the fact Clemens has continued to insist he is innocent despite the threat of jail proves his innocence to which Hardin should be reminded that Pete Rose most vehemently proclaimed his innocence regarding gambling on baseball for years and was banned from the game before finally admitting his guilt in his book My Prison Without Bars. Mark McGwire claimed his innocence before finally admitting to it in January. Continually and loudly proclaiming innocence doesn't mean much.
One thing working in Clemens's favor is, in a perjury trial, a key element that must be proven by the prosecution is that the accused had the specific intent to lie when he lied. And proving intent can be very difficult.
Additionally, this is a case that will likely rely on witness testimony rather than documentation. It will, essentially, be the word of Brian McNamee versus that of Roger Clemens. Unfortunately for Clemens, it reached this stage because neither Congress nor the grand jury believed the Rocket over McNamee.
McNamee's character will work against the prosecution, but the prosecution will have further witness support for McNamee's claims. McNamee only named three players as ones to whom he game HGH and two of those players, Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, have both given statements that they took HGH supplied to them by McNamee. Pettitte has come to be thought of as one of the most honest men in America despite the fact that he was taking HGH and only admitted to this once he was outed in the Mitchell Report.
This somewhat resembles the federal case against former San Francisco Giant slugger Barry Bonds, which has been postponed numerous times. But the government has a better case against Clemens than they do Bonds. Like Clemens, Bonds has denied taking steroids or HGH but Bonds has acknowledged that he took "The Cream" and "The Clear," saying he didn't know those substances were steroids and HGH making proving intent against Bonds more difficult.
Further strengthening the Fed's case against Clemens is the fact that the only person willing to testify on his behalf is Jose Canseco. Canseco hinted in his first book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big, that Clemens used steroids, but claimed Clemens was clean in his follow up Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball.
The point for Clemens is that he finally gets to have his day in court, whether he wants it or not.
John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.