Acquitted Rocket back to family focus
A free man, Roger Clemens walked outside the US District Courthouse and down C Street when he turned around and faced his four sons and wife at an intersection.
“We need to come up with a game plan,” the seven-time Cy Young Award winner told his family.
This wasn’t about fighting charges that he lied to Congress. Minutes earlier, a jury of eight women and four declared Clemens not guilty on all six counts on Monday afternoon. It ended a four-plus-year legal battle, which started with Clemens’ appearance on Capitol Hill, where he testified that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
His comment to his family wasn’t even about getting into the Hall of Fame — Clemens will be on the ballot for the first time in December. When FOXSports.com asked about his Cooperstown chances, Clemens replied: "I'm not even thinking about that right now."
Rather, this was all about scheduling time with family, a unit that was rocked by not only the original accusations that Clemens used steroids and human growth hormone in the Mitchell Report — an independent investigation into baseball’s steroid era released in December 2007 — but salacious details about infidelity and admissions that Clemens’ wife, Debbie, had used HGH.
Clemens family members didn’t take any questions, not that they had to. The pure emotions in the courtroom said plenty.
With his left hand, Clemens reached over and grabbed hold of the outstretched arm of his lawyer Rusty Hardin as the final perjury verdict was read. Clemens faced five counts of perjury and one count of obstruction, charges that could have sent the former New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros pitcher to prison for up to 30 years and resulted in a $1.5 million fine.
The two rows behind Clemens consisted mainly of family members, and most were left teary-eyed as the foreman read the verdicts aloud.
"Mr. Clemens, you are free to go." Judge Reggie Walton said.
Embraces all around followed and Clemens, clad in a tan suit, made his way into the seating area before bailiffs cleared the courtroom. On his way out, a moment of levity — if learning there’s no chance you are going to spend a day on probation or under house arrest wasn’t enough — as Clemens’ son, Kory, made fun of his dad’s hair, which was sticking straight up during the verdict.
Clemens had been working out at an area gym when word came down about 4 p.m. ET that the jury had reached a verdict, leaving little time for grooming.
Outside of the courthouse in front of a swath of cameras and reporters, Clemens broke down for a second time as he was allowed to talk to the media for the first time since a gag order was issued nearly two years ago.
“My family, again, just like I told them a few minutes ago, this has been a hard five years,” Clemens said. “They have been great behind dad. My wife has been a rock behind us. All our family back home in Houston. We had some come up today and over the last (nine) weeks.”
Whatever took place here on Monday, Clemens already had been judged guilty by many. Clemens, however, is the rare athlete who was fully vindicated in court, something that wasn’t the case when it came to other current and former major leaguers mentioned in the Mitchell Report who were charged. It’s a list that includes Barry Bonds (found guilty of one count of obstruction) and Miguel Tejada (pleaded guilty to one charge of lying to Congress).
His legal team hopes the verdict — handed down after less than a dozen hours of deliberations — changes the perception of Clemens.
“He never was guilty,” Hardin told FOXSports.com. “All he was doing was telling the truth. So, I’m hopeful now that this is settled in, people give this a second look.”
Mike Attanasio, another Clemens attorney, told FOXSports.com that Clemens earned a second look with the verdict.
“If they jumped to conclusions of what they heard and read about baseball and its steroid era, how can they not reassess (those views)?” Attanasio said. “This is a verdict after one (full day of deliberations). One day. People should think about that. It took them one day after a two-month trial.”
Attanasio added that Clemens was the victim of an overeager Justice Department, evidenced by the 13 obstructive acts Clemens allegedly committed that constituted the sole obstruction count. The first Clemens proceedings last summer ended in a mistrial.
“The government overcharged the case,” Attanasio said. “The government gave them a menu of 13 choices, and in one (full) day, the jurors said no 13 times. It’s incredible. Look at the other cases, like the Bonds case. They chose one. It was a tremendous hurdle for the defense to overcome and we did it.”
The jury declined to talk to reporters, according to US District Court spokesman Sheldon Snook. Assistant US Attorneys Steven Durham and Daniel Butler refused to comment when FOXSports.com approached the two individually after the verdict, although their office did issue a statement.
“We respect the judicial process and the jury’s verdict,” US Attorney’s Office spokesman Bill Miller wrote. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office also wishes to thank the investigators and prosecutors, who pursued this case with tremendous dedication and professionalism after its referral to us from Congress.”
A message left with DLA Piper, the law firm behind the Mitchell Report, wasn’t immediately returned.
Clemens split with his family, who appeared to be on their way back to the hotel, at 6th Avenue. Clemens was headed to Attanasio’s office up the street. Such meetings are likely on the wane as Clemens turns from defendant back to family man.
“I think he’ll go back to what he’s been doing: following and supporting the boys,” Hardin told FOXSports.com. “He has one in pro baseball (Koby) and another not far off. The boys adore their father.”