We may never know the truth -- whether Roger Clemens was just the most steadfast, hubris-filled liar of all time or if he was the most doggedly competitive, wrongly accused innocent victim of hearsay and other people's lies of all time -- but we do know now that Roger Clemens will walk the streets a free man, acquitted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury of his peers on Monday.
The federal government took several runs at Clemens. They grilled him in a Congressional hearing in 2008, they did everything short of wearing rubber noses and floppy shoes in a laughable mistrial last summer, and they grasped at straws for another two months in a retrial that ended Monday.
In the end, the old adage was proven:
When your case rides largely on the testimony of a compulsively untruthful personal trainer and Jose Canseco, you don't really have much of a case.
Still, there were many times twists and turns throughout the trial (public-opinion court and actual) of Roger Clemens the last three years, with Clemens appearing to be all but fitted for an orange jumpsuit at some points and then, toward the end, with an acquittal becoming a mere formality.
Despite what appeared to be an up-and-down few years, Clemens lead attorney Rusty Hardin told John Granato and me on 1560 The Game last Friday that he's never had a case in his career in which he's been more confident in the outcome:
I've done it for 37 years and I've never had a case where I felt as good all the way along at each stage (as this one). Part of the problem is that we didn't put on our case until the seventh week, and that's when people started noticing a turn, but really when (the government) was putting on their case, it became increasingly obvious that there were problems (for the government).
Rusty Hardin on the stories of jury members falling asleep and the judge removing jury members:
The jury was actually an incredible jury. There was this public perception that they were sleeping and not paying attention. In reality, they were one of the two most attentive groups I've seen in any trial I've had. They asked incredible questions, they came into it on a clean slate, nine of them had never even heard of Roger Clemens, none of them were baseball fans, and they came into it with an open mind. And I always said if we had twelve people with an open mind, they would reach a unanimous conclusion that Roger didn't do this.
Hardin on how shocked he was that the government attempted a retrial after the mistrial last summer:
I am (amazed they retried the case), and I thought the mistrial last year gave them the perfect excuse to walk away, and we thought naively that maybe they would. Instead, they just doubled down and added three more people to the team.
Hardin on the public surprise over Andy Pettitte's testimony in the second trial which ultimately was the key to getting Clemens off the hook:
Part of the problem is (the prosecution) never really vetted carefully McNamee, and they always misunderstood Andy Pettitte. Andy was never sure that he heard Roger right back in 1999. And when Andy gave his deposition before the hearing, he told them that. In 2005, when Roger denied having told him that, Andy believed him and thought (he himself, Andy) was wrong. The Congressional people got (Andy) to turn around and say he was more positive than he was. The public was surprised by Andy, but we weren't surprised. He never was quite sure what he heard Roger say.
Hardin on the jurors deciding not to talk to the media and the possibility that an overly vindictive government could go after one of them:
One of the jurors said to us that one of the reasons we've all agreed we're not going to talk to the media (after the trial ended) is not because we're scared of the media, but we don't wanted to be targeted by the government. If they could go after someone like Roger Clemens with all the assets and resources that he has, what the hell could they do to the little guy? So none of them want to call attention to themselves.
Hardin on Roger's relationship with Pettitte and how the perception that their friendship is damaged is far from the truth, that they are still friends today:
One of the many things I love about Roger Clemens is that not only does he not hold grudges, but in four and a half years in the most private of conversations, he has never said anything bad about Andy to any of us. In spite of the way it looked, in spite of the perception, Roger said it in front of Congress and he'd say it now -- Andy and he were friends before this happened, they were friends during this, and they'll be friends after. Their relationship is not in tatters, it's just been put on the shelf.
Hardin on what he'd say to the people who have already deemed Roger guilty of steroid abuse:
I just wish they wouldn't form judgments without having seen all the evidence, and seen the witnesses and listened and talked to Roger.
Hardin on how he gave Roger several chances to admit taking steroids and formulate a strategy from there (which obviously he never did):
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We've probably hot boxed this guy more than anybody we've ever represented. If had done it, the way that Andy went was the right way to go -- admit it and move on. I'll bet you we had 25 to 30 conversations the first six months saying "Roger, if you did this, just tell us, we can deal with it. Admit it to the public, and that's it." Not only did he not deny it, but his story and his facts never changed. I'm more convinced than ever that he didn't do it.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.