By Dave Sheinin and Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Hours after pleading guilty in Washington to federal charges that he lied to congressional investigators in 2005 about his knowledge of performance-enhancing drug use in baseball, former Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada made a tearful apology in Houston -- without saying what he was apologizing for.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for what just happened," Tejada, who now plays for the Houston Astros, said at the end of a brief news conference that ended without him or his lawyer taking questions.
Tejada, 34, pleaded guilty to making a false representation, a charge that carries a sentence of up to year in prison. However, federal sentence guidelines call for probation to six months. U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay released Tejada on his personal recognizance and set a March 26 sentencing hearing.
During a 45-minute hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, Tejada, the 2002 American League most valuable player, admitted that he lied to congressional staffers during a 2005 interview in a Baltimore hotel room that focused on the prevalence of steroids in the game, as part of a House committee's investigation into former Orioles teammate Rafael Palmeiro.
In a signed statement attached to his plea deal, Tejada also acknowledged buying $6,300 of human growth hormone from a teammate in 2003. But he told authorities that, after purchasing the drugs, he had second thoughts and threw them out, assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Butler said at the hearing.
Butler said the government had "insufficient evidence to contradict" Tejada's claims.
At the news conference in Houston, Tejada's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, stressed that his client was not alleged by the government to have used performance-enhancing drugs.
"The U.S. Attorney in Washington investigated this matter for over a year, with all the resources it has available to it," Tuohey said. "And that office concluded . . . that the only allegation and the only relevant facts they found dealt with Mr. Tejada's failure" to reveal his knowledge of a teammate's drug use.
Although Tejada, a citizen of the Dominican Republic with permanent-resident alien status in the United States, could face deportation for the misdemeanor conviction, Tuohey said he has already discussed Tejada's status with immigration officials and believes the case "will have no impact on his immigration status at all."
In court yesterday morning, Tejada, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and black-and-silver tie, and flanked by his attorneys, stood before Kay with a headset plugged into his ears so he could hear a Spanish-speaking interpreter.
"Yes, your honor," Tejada answered in English when asked if he understood the consequences of his guilty plea. When asked if he was on any drugs or medications, Tejada told Kay he had "a couple drinks last night" but was not taking anything else.
At the end of the hearing, Tejada shook hands with prosecutors, met with probation officials, then, with Tuohey and agent Diego Bentz, hustled past reporters and television cameramen -- without stopping for questions -- and into a waiting sport-utility vehicle bound for the airport.
In Houston, Tejada spoke haltingly, pausing to wipe his eyes and collect himself, as Tuohey patted his back. He spoke first in English, then, after standing up to walk away, sat back down and repeated himself in Spanish at the request of some Spanish-language media members.
"First of all, I just want to apologize," he said. "I made a mistake, and know now how serious a mistake I make. I take responsibility . . . and I'm very sorry for what happened. I'm sorry to my family, to the Congress, to the Houston Astros, to the Orioles, to the major leagues. . . .
"I apologize to the whole United States, because this country give me the opportunity to be who I am."