Legendary pitcher Roger Clemens found not guilty of perjury

Posted at 4:54 PM, Jun 18, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-18 17:14:32-04
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Legendary baseball pitcher Roger Clemens was found not guilty Monday of lying to Congress during an investigation of steroid use among major league players.

The case against Clemens involved one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. He was not charged with illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs, but his denial of such use was part of the case against him.

A jury found him not guilty on all six counts.

An emotional Clemens wiped his eyes after the verdict was announced, while his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, gave a thumbs-up to the jury before leaving the courtroom.

“Mr. Clemens, you’re free to go,” Judge Reggie Walton said.

Federal prosecutor Courtney Saleski, in closing arguments, told jurors Clemens “wanted to protect his brand, he wanted to protect his livelihood,” in denying the use of steroids during a 2008 investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives into the problem.

The Clemens defense team disputed whether the government had made its case, telling the jury all the evidence came through a former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, who had incentive to lie.

“You saw Brian McNamee, the only witness in the history of the world who says he gave or saw an injection of that man,” said defense attorney Michael Attanasio. “One person in the entire world.” During closing arguments, the defense cited the lack of corroborating witnesses.

It took about eight weeks for the prosecution and defense to question 46 witnesses, and the most direct conflict came among expert witnesses as to how to interpret a collection of discarded medical items that allegedly linked Clemens to steroid use. The pitcher did not take the stand in his defense.

Soiled medical wrappings, cotton balls, drug vials and hypodermic needles that McNamee kept were interpreted differently by each side. Witnesses for the government said genetic material linked with Clemens suggested it was impossible for McNamee to fabricate the evidence.

But defense witnesses on the same topic said storage in a beer can for years allowed commingling and contamination of materials, making reliable conclusions impossible, and the evidence nearly worthless.

This was the second trial for Clemens. About a year ago, a mistrial was declared before the case reached the jury. The government’s lawyers played video evidence the judge had already banned. Prosecutors said it was an editing mistake, but the Clemens defense team suggested prosecutors were unprepared and had gotten off to a bad start.

Known as “The Rocket,” Clemens was one of the most accomplished pitchers of his generation, earning seven Cy Young awards and 11 All-Star appearances before retiring in 2007. He was known for his blazing fastball — his 4,672 strikeouts are the third most of any Major League pitcher — as well as his endurance and excellence over all stages of his 24-year career.

But the Texas native made news for a different reason in 2007, when he was among a number of baseball stars — along with others like Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi — in a probe by Major League Baseball investigating the illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs. That probe was led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell.

Yet despite being accused by his longtime former trainer, Clemens has consistently and strongly denied using steroids. That includes comments he made during the 2008 congressional hearing delving into the Mitchell Report and later in reaction to his six-count indictment.