I predict that Roger Clemens will spend more than a year of his life in a federal prison. Here’s why.
The federal government indicted him today on six counts:
1. Two counts of perjury, for falsely testifying under oath at a House Committee hearing Feb. 13, 2008 that (1) Brian McNamee, his trainer, never gave him HGH, and (2) he had “never taken steroids.”
2. Three counts of falsely telling staff members of that Committee in a deposition under oath eight days before the hearing that (1) he had never used HGH, (2) he had never used steroids, and (3) McNamee gave him injections of vitamin B12 (the indictment says McNamee never gave him any B12 shots).
3. One count of obstruction of Congress, for trying to obstruct the Committee’s investigation by making 15 false statements to the Committee, including those listed above.
Each of these counts carries a sentence of 0-5 years in prison, but under the federal sentencing guidelines, the reality is that if he’s convicted of at least one of the perjury counts — regardless of whether he’s convicted of one or more of the other counts — he will receive a sentence of 15 to 21 months in prison. And under federal law, even if he’s a very good boy in prison (an assumption Mike Piazza would never make), he will have to serve a minimum of 85 percent of his sentence. So that works out to about 13-18 months in prison.
As of February 2008, the Committee (that’s the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, if you’re keeping score) had compiled a wealth of evidence that Clemens had lied under oath. In the 2 1/2 years since, additional evidence that he lied has been made public. Undoubtedly the government has even more evidence that we don’t know about yet.
Shortly after the hearing, the evidence the Committee compiled led Congressmen Henry Waxman (chairman of the Committee and a Democrat) and Tom Davis (the Republican Ranking Member) to jointly ask the Attorney General of the United States in writing to investigate whether Clemens committed perjury. I think at that point the writing was on the wall, because, during the hearing, in a revolting display of partisan politics, the Democrats generally took the position that McNamee was telling the truth when he said he gave Clemens HGH and steroids, while the Republicans generally took the position that Clemens was telling the truth when he said McNamee had not done so. Yet after the hearing, Waxman and Davis, representing both parties, asked the Attorney General to investigate whether Clemens had lied but did not ask him to investigate whether McNamee had lied.
According to a report prepared by Waxman’s staff at that time, here’s the key evidence that already existed against Clemens:
1. Most importantly, this was not a “he said, he said” situation: Andy Pettitte’s testimony corroborated McNamee’s, despite the fact that Pettitte is and was a good friend of Clemens. Pettitte testified under oath in a deposition and affidavit (he did not testify at the hearing) that in 1999 or 2000, Clemens told him he had used HGH. Then, in 2005, according to Pettitte’s testimony, he asked Clemens what he would say if a reporter asked him whether he had ever used performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens asked what Pettitte meant, and Pettitte reminded Clemens that Clemens had told him he had used HGH. Clemens responded by saying that Pettitte must have misunderstood and that what Clemens had said was that his wife Debbie had used HGH.
But there’s just one little problem: both Clemens and McNamee told the Committee that Debbie Clemens didn’t use HGH until 2002 or 2003, so Clemens couldn’t have told Pettitte in 1999 or 2000 that his wife had used HGH. And, to top it all off, Pettitte’s wife, Laura, submitted an affidavit to the Committee in which she said that Andy told her about each of the two conversations with Clemens at the time they took place. Plus, Pettitte and McNamee both testified that they had two conversations with each other in which they discussed Clemens’ use of HGH and steroids.
2. McNamee testified that he injected Clemens, Pettitte, and Chuck Knoblauch with HGH. Pettitte testified that McNamee injected him with HGH. Knoblauch told the Committee in an interview (in which a lie would have been a crime) that McNamee injected him with HGH. In the words of the staff report: “There is little reason to believe that Mr. McNamee would provide truthful testimony about Mr. Pettitte and Mr. Knoblauch, but false testimony about Mr. Clemens.”
3. Clemens developed a large abscess (a “palpable mass,” if you’re interested) in his buttocks in 1998 when he played for the Blue Jays. McNamee said in a 2007 phone call taped by Clemens’ investigators that the abscess was from steroid injections. Clemens testified it was probably due to B12 injections. Various medical authorities, including Ron Taylor, who won a World Series ring with the Mets in 1969 and was the Blue Jays’ team doctor in 1998, told the Committee that they had never seen a palpable mass form in response to B12 injections, despite having administered many such injections (in Taylor’s case, almost 1,000). And military doctor Mark Murphey told the Committee that the MRI performed on Clemens’ posterior was more consistent with steroid injections than B12 injections. I think it’s safe to assume that over the past 2 1/2 years, the government has beefed up this medical evidence.
Now here’s what’s come to light since the time of the hearings: in early 2009, The New York Times and the Washington Post reported that McNamee had saved syringes, vials, and gauze pads that he said he used when he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, and that the government then received results of tests that showed both Clemens’ DNA and performance-enhancing drugs on these materials.
Also, the grand jury investigating Clemens subpoenaed various people associated with a Houston-area gym in an effort to determine how Clemens received steroids.
Given how important this case is to the government — its press release today stressed that it was sending a “message” to people who testify falsely before Congress that “there will be consequences” — and given that the government must prove Clemens’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a widely publicized case in which an acquittal would be deeply embarrassing, I think it’s fair to assume that the feds have developed additional evidence against Clemens that we just don’t know about yet.
That’s why I believe the jury will conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Clemens is guilty of perjury. To conclude otherwise would be to conclude that there is a reasonable possibility that McNamee and Pettitte (and his wife) lied under oath, despite the fact that the Pettittes had no reason to do so, and that McNamee told the truth about Pettitte and Knoblauch but lied under oath about Clemens, and that Pettitte and McNamee lied about their two conversations with each other, and that B12 shots rather than steroid shots caused a large abscess in Clemens’ derriere despite medical evidence to the contrary, and that Clemens’ DNA and performance-enhancing drugs both ended up on McNamee’s injection paraphernalia but McNamee didn’t inject Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs. I just don’t think that’s going to happen.
Oh, and one more thing: the Baseball Hall of Fame criteria include personal integrity. So Clemens can kiss that goodbye.