STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer.
A federal jury has acquitted baseball pitching ace Roger Clemens on all charges. The jury found Clemens not guilty of lying to Congress and of obstructing a congressional investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg was in the courtroom. She has this report.
NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Seven Cy Young awards, six not guilty verdicts. Those words summarize Roger Clemens career and the aftermath. Inside the courtroom, it was all over quickly on Monday and Clemens emerged, appearing calm as he thanked his family and friends. Only when he referred to his career, did he suddenly lose his composure. For about 30 seconds, he fought back tears and then said:
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Does it feel better than winning a ballgame?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Do you regret of doing things...
ROGER CLEMENS: I put a lot of hard work into that career. And so, again, I appreciate my teammates that came in and all the emails and phone calls from my teammates. So thank y'all very much.
TOTENBERG: Inside the courtroom moments earlier, Clemens family sat grim faced as the jury filed in. His four sons held hands tightly as the foreman read the verdicts in each of the six counts. At the last not guilty, the boys began to weep. Soon the entire family clutched each other in a huddled bear hug. Defense lawyer Rusty Hardin said afterwards that Clemens crime had been that he refused to admit to something he had not done.
Clemens has steadfastly denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs, a denial he made under oath to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee, which had aggressively pursued its investigation of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, didn't believe him and referred his testimony to the Justice Department, which brought criminal charges against Clemens.
The lynchpin of the government's case was the testimony of Clemens' one-time strength coach Brian McNamee, who testified that he repeatedly injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone over a three year period. But McNamee's testimony was contradicted on a variety of points by a variety of witnesses, including his estranged wife. And the former head of security for the New York Yankees told the jury that the one-time Yankee strength coach should not be believed, that his credibility was, quote, "zero."
The jury of eight women and four men delivered its verdict after deliberating for 10 hours, a relatively short time, given the nine-week length of the trial. Indeed, Clemens' lawyers had told him not expect a verdict on Monday, and he was working out with his sons several miles from the courthouse when word came that the jury had reached a verdict.
For Clemens, the verdict was as close to exoneration as a public figure can get in a case like this. And it will likely mean that the pitching star known as the Rocket will one day be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For the Justice Department, though, it was the second time in three weeks that the government has lost a high profile prosecution. Earlier this month, a jury in North Carolina acquitted former senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards of one felony count and deadlocked on other charges that he had violated federal campaign laws in an effort to hide from the public an extramarital affair and illegitimate child. The Justice Department quickly announced it would not retry Edwards.
There had been widespread doubts expressed about bringing charges in both cases. The Edwards case was premised on a legal theory never used before. And critics of the Clemens case wondered aloud about the wisdom of spending considerable government resources on a case with such paltry evidence.
The criminal probe of the use of steroids in baseball began in the Bush administration with the prosecution of baseball slugger Barry Bonds. Three years later, he was convicted of just one count of obstruction, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on the other three charges. Bonds was sentenced to just 30 days of house arrest.
Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.