Count me among the group that’s glad the federal prosecutors in the Roger Clemens case erred so badly and forced the case to be thrown out. Clemens was in the second day of his perjury trial in Washington D.C., and was let off the hook like a pitcher that walks the bases loaded, then has the next hitter swing at the first pitch and hit into a triple play.
Perhaps the prosecution did it on purpose. How could so many people in the U.S. Attorney’s office have viewed the video of Clemens’ congressional hearing, and not noticed that Laura Pettitte’s third-hand testimony was mentioned? These are supposed to be really good lawyers, but they messed up royally.
Here’s the part that bothers me the most. We have a government that is in danger of defaulting on loans, and a Congress that doesn’t want to raise the country’s debt ceiling. Our government doesn’t have any money! Yet they saw fit to spend a reported $55 million on prosecuting Barry Bonds for perjury. For that $55 million and seven years of chasing him, the feds got Barry on one count of obstructing justice. That came as a result of Bonds lying to a federal grand jury.
On three other counts of lying to a grand jury, the jury in the Bonds case couldn’t come to an agreement, and wound up with a hung jury. Bonds could face 10 years in prison for obstructing justice, but experts question whether he’ll spend any time at all in prison. Essentially, federal prosecutors have nothing to show for their seven-year investigation into Bonds.
A 3½-year probe into whether or not Clemens used steroids rendered six charges of lying to Congress. In addition to taking all that time, it takes a lot of manpower and money to go this far. And what happens? The prosecutors screw up. That was noted by Judge Reggie Walton as he ruled for a mistrial. According to ESPN, he told jurors he was sorry to have wasted their time and spent so much taxpayer money, only to call off the case.
You would think that Attorney General Eric Holder, who works in the same cabinet that’s trying to keep the country solvent, would recognize that going after pro athletes for perjury is a futile pursuit. I’m not condoning lying to Congress on the part of Bonds and Clemens. I kind of thought they did. But for various reasons, these guys are walking. Unless you have a slam-dunk case, one that’s streamlined and solid, it shouldn’t go to trial. It’s amazing to me that this many dollars were diverted from other parts of the budget to take a shot at convicting these players.
Thursday’s dismissal is cause for termination of the person that let that video be shown in the courtroom. The judge specifically barred Laura Pettitte’s testimony of what her husband said, and prosecutors either tried to sneak it in, or were simply incompetent in not realizing it was on the tape. Either way, that person ultimately wasted everything the feds put into the Clemens case.
On a bigger level, Holder and President Barack Obama should tell their guys to get out of the sports business. If baseball has a steroids problem, let them deal with it. They appear to be doing fine. If people don’t like the way the BCS works, let ‘em complain. But do people really want to have their tax dollars be applied to looking into how college football crowns its champion? Heck, if the government is going to be involved in sports, how about a federal boxing commission? We’ve been calling for that for a long time.
Bonds and Clemens did a lot of winning on the baseball diamond, and now they’ve beat the biggest and baddest adversaries out there, the feds. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 94.1 percent of federal prosecutors’ cases resolved in 2009 ended with a conviction. Now they’ve lost to baseball players twice in 2011. It’s time for the government to cut their losses to baseball players, and do some different things. If you’re going to charge criminals, get more people that peddle drugs, destroy 401Ks and kidnap kids. Get your debt under control so elderly people that so desperately need Social Security checks will get them.
But don’t bother with sports any more.