Clemens, 49, then hugged his four sons and kissed his wife, Debbie, before hustling from the courtroom to make a brief statement to a battalion of reporters on the steps of the District’s federal courthouse.
“It has been a hard five years. . . . All of you who know me in the media and followed my career, I put a lot of hard work into that career,” he said, sighing and choking back tears.
The verdict was a huge loss for the Justice Department, which was already reeling from the recent acquittal and mistrial of former presidential candidate John Edwards. Last week, the department announced that it would not retry Edwards on the campaign finance charges on which jurors deadlocked.
The Clemens verdict is also the department’s second defeat in a prosecution of a baseball star accused of lying about taking performance-enhancing drugs. Slugger Barry Bonds was convicted last year of a charge of obstruction of justice, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three other counts accusing him of lying to a grand jury when he testified that he had never knowingly taken the substances. He was later sentenced to house arrest and probation.
Federal prosecutors and FBI agents, who have doggedly pursued the Clemens case since he was referred to them by Congress in 2008, did not flinch as the verdict was read and declined to comment after the proceeding. The District’s U.S. attorney, Ronald C. Machen Jr., issued a brief statement: “The jury has spoken in this matter, and we thank them for their service. We respect the judicial process and the jury’s verdict.” The trial was the second by Machen’s office of Clemens; the first ended in a mistrial last year after prosecutors presented barred evidence to jurors two days into testimony.
Former congressman Tom Davis, the ranking Republican on the committee when it referred Clemens for prosecution, said he didn’t think the Justice Department had to bring the former pitcher to trial.
“Clearly, the Justice Department has had a series of prosecutions against high-profile individuals that have been unsuccessful,” he said, defending the decision of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to refer the case because of what he called “gross discrepancies” in testimony. “We refer a lot of things that don’t get prosecuted,” he said.
The nine-week trial, which included testimony from former teammates, forensics experts, a strength coach and even a housekeeper, ended abruptly: It took jurors just 11 hours to reach a verdict on six felony charges of perjury, obstruction of Congress and making false statements. Clemens, who joined the company of a handful of mostly executive branch officials charged with lying to Congress in recent decades, faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted.