Pitching legend Roger Clemens is indicted on charges of lying to a congressional committee

By Dave Sheinin and Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, August 20, 2010; A01

Roger Clemens, the most decorated pitcher in baseball history, was indicted Thursday on charges of lying two years ago when he told a congressional committee that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

The indictment charges Clemens, 48, with one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury in connection with his February 2008 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

While it could be some time before the case sees a trial, the indictment was a blow both to Clemens's own legacy and Major League Baseball's efforts to distance itself from a steroids scandal that tainted the game for more than a decade and involved some of its greatest stars. With Barry Bonds also under indictment for perjury in California and scheduled for trial in March, and now Clemens, baseball must endure the twin embarrassments of seeing the best hitter and best pitcher of the past generation essentially labeled as steroids users by the federal government.

"I never took HGH or Steroids," Clemens posted on his Twitter account late Thursday afternoon. "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."

In an e-mail, Clemens's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said, "Roger did not use steroids. He did not use HGH. And he didn't lie to Congress."

HGH refers to human growth hormone. Like anabolic steroids, HGH is a controlled substance banned by baseball; both are believed to assist in muscle recovery from strenuous exercise or injury, though they also carry the risk of several negative side effects.

The indictment was returned to U.S. Magistrate Deborah A. Robinson of the District at a brief hearing shortly after 1:30 p.m. It does not offer any proof that Clemens used steroids and has little new information about Clemens and the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It cites the veracity of the 2007 report by former Sen. George J. Mitchell into steroids use in baseball and the testimony of Brian McNamee, Clemens's longtime friend and personal trainer.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Clemens faces 15 to 21 months in prison if convicted.

"Our government cannot function if witnesses are not held accountable for false statements made before Congress," said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. in a statement accompanying the indictment. "Today the message is clear: If a witness makes a choice to ignore his or her obligation to testify honestly, there will be consequences."

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who also presided over the perjury and obstruction trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney.

Prosecutors did not seek an arrest warrant, leaving it to the judge to issue a summons for Clemens to appear at an arraignment in the coming days at which he would be read his constitutional rights and asked to enter a plea. After the arraignment, a trial could be held in as few as 70 days, although motions by either side inevitably would delay that timetable.

McNamee's accusations

At issue is whether Clemens lied to the House panel when he voluntary appeared before it in February 2008 to deny accusations made by McNamee that he had used steroids and human growth hormone.

Clemens and McNamee testified under oath, with much of their testimony directly contradicting the other's. McNamee, who was assisting federal investigators in exchange for not charging him with steroids distribution, later would file a defamation suit against Clemens in New York.

"Two-and-a-half years ago [Clemens] lied for a day in front of Congress and the American public, and I don't think anyone gets away with that," Richard Emery, McNamee's attorney, said in an interview. "It looks like he has gotten himself into a jam he ain't getting out of, and he has to pay a price for this, both for breaking the law and to Brian McNamee for ruining his life by calling him a liar."

A spokesman for Major League Baseball said Commissioner Bud Selig would have no comment regarding Clemens, perhaps a sign the sport wants to distance itself from the steroids scandal, which tainted many of the game's most cherished records between the mid-1990s and the middle of the past decade, and put Selig and his lieutenants under intense scrutiny from Washington.

Clemens, who won an unprecedented seven Cy Young Awards as the best pitcher in the league during a 24-year career for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, last pitched in October 2007, two months before the release of the Mitchell report. Like Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and other stars of his era, Clemens was considered a sure-fire Hall of Famer before the steroids scandal ensnared them all. Palmeiro will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2011, with Clemens and Bonds in 2013. But based on McGwire's paltry vote totals in his three years on the ballot, the others could be shut out as well.

Clemens's problems began in December 2007 when he was the most prominent player named in the Mitchell report -- a 21-month-long probe commissioned by the league -- as having used steroids and HGH. Mitchell's source for the Clemens accusations was McNamee, who said he personally injected Clemens multiple times between 1998 and 2001.

Clemens would deny the charges multiple times -- in a statement immediately after the report's release, in an interview with the CBS News "60 Minutes" program and a news conference. However, for legal purposes, what matters is the denial he made to the House panel in a Feb. 5, 2008 sworn deposition, and again at the public hearing eight days later.

"Let me be clear," Clemens testified to lawmakers under oath. "I have never taken steroids or HGH."

McNamee also appeared before the committee and claimed to have injected Clemens as many as 40 times. He eventually turned over to the committee a collection of bloody syringes and gauze pads that he claimed to have used on Clemens, and later kept stored in a box in his basement.

'A self-inflicted wound'

The case likely will hinge on whether the jury finds McNamee believable and physical evidence not mentioned in the indictment, such as whether Clemens's DNA and banned drugs were found in the needles at McNamee's home.

Just two weeks after the hearing, committee leaders -- then-chairman Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and ranking minority member Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) -- petitioned the Justice Department to investigate the veracity of Clemens's testimony. A federal grand jury began hearing testimony in the case early 2009, with former players Jose Canseco, David Segui and Jason Grimsley among the witnesses.

Davis, who stepped down in 2008 after serving seven terms in Congress, said Clemens was not subpoenaed by the committee but simply wanted to clear his name after the Mitchell report was published.

"This is a tragedy, and this is a self-inflicted wound. . . . I remember saying to him, 'Whatever you do, don't lie,' " Davis said. "I didn't want to refer this thing to Justice, but when you look at the record, Henry Waxman and I sat down and we had an institutional duty to do that. We just can't let people go up and flaunt and lie" to Congress, Davis added.

In a statement, Waxman said he believes Clemens lied to the committee, adding, "Perjury and false statements by witnesses before Congress are serious crimes that undermine the ability of Congress to perform its duties."

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