The trial of baseball legend Roger Clemens, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with his 2008 testimony before Congress concerning his use of performance-enhancing drugs, begins today. According to Michael McCann, Clemens could face 15-21 months in prison if convicted.
As Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe has written, Clemens’ appearance before Congress was completely unnecessary although consistent with Clemens’ personality. In February 2008, I watched Clemens testify before Congress and shared my thoughts with Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant. At that time, I had the same reaction as I do today: why did Clemens subject himself to this? Here are some of my observations from the hearings:
The format: “Compared to a court proceeding, it had the appearance of a free-for-all. The chairman tried to rein them in a little bit, but only when their time was up. . . . The attorneys had no role in this, putting Clemens out on an island.
“In court, they never could have asked about [Andy] Pettitte and his wife, it would all be under hearsay, or about Clemens’ tracking down of the nanny, which would [be] protected under [the] attorney-client privilege. Again, this is the exact reason you wouldn’t want [Clemens] to do it.
“It was more akin to ‘The People’s Court’ on TV than any judicial proceeding.”
Clemens’ strategy: “This is a public relations thing for them, not a strategy formed around a jury, or charges. It’s to clear his name and let him, in retirement, be the hero. They continue the public front, continue to denounce anything that comes out about McNamee.”
Physical evidence: “It’s highly unlikely that any of that evidence would ever make it into any court. There are chain-of-custody issues. Evidence has to be stored correctly, at the right temperatures, to be preserved. If it was sitting in Brian McNamee’s basement, there is no way to prove it was stored correctly. This is another reason, if you’re Roger Clemens, why subject yourself to it here?”
The inquisitors: “Many of the representatives seemed to have their minds made up, and decided that they believed one or the other. Burton came off like he has his mind made up. Waxman, in his opening statement, made it clear that the committee supported the Mitchell Report. Calling it ‘an impressive, incredible report.’ “
Highlights: “I thought when [Rep. Christopher] Shays said, ‘I’d feel a lot better if there were 89 players here instead of one,’ that was one of the strongest statements of the day. Also when [Rep. Elijah] Cummings said, ‘You’re one of my heroes, but I have a hard time believing you,’ it seemed like it was really paining him to be doing this.”
Lowlights: “Some of the questions were convoluted, irrelevant, like the one about which hat he would wear in the Hall of Fame.”
Surprises: “I don’t think Clemens had an opportunity to go through evidence. Some of that testimony he seemed to be hearing for the first time. They asked about medical reports, Clemens is a lay person. He can’t answer on medical reports. In a court of law, despite what we see on TV, there are no surprises. Everybody knows what witnesses will say. They’ve all been deposed.”
Clemens’ testimony: “Nothing Clemens has said has directly disputed McNamee’s allegations against him, other than to just say ‘it didn’t happen.’ Watching Clemens, he would just go off on a rant about putting on the USA uniform or having the president call him while he was on a hunting trip. None of this was responsive to the question he was asked.”