Monday, June 18, 2012

Finally, the Roger Clemens mess comes to an end

So after 5 years, 2 trials, 10 weeks of evidence, and 10 hours of jury deliberation, the feds have nothing to show for their prosecution of Roger Clemens. Nothing except a bill for who knows how many taxpayer dollars.

And we paid for this, jurors took 10 weeks out of their lives, and Roger Clemens spent 5 years fearing the consequences of a federal conviction over what? Yes, we can try to pretend that  it's a really big deal when someone lies to Congress. But in the end, this was about whether some guy took a performance enhancing drug while playing baseball. Let's not pretend that people don't lie to Congress, and about things that matter a whole lot more than steroids in baseball. Yes, I definitely fall in the camp of those who think some lies are worse than others. Because they are.

The lesson to be learned from this (and from the John Edwards result) is that maybe federal prosecutors (or prosecutors in general) can do a better job of deciding which cases to prosecute. Not every crime that can be charged should be. There's a popular notion that suggests we all on average could be charged with about 3 felonies a day. We're not all running around committing burglaries and batteries and other obvious crimes. But there are a lot of things we all do without even realizing that violate some obscure federal law. The point is that federal prosecutors have to exercise a lot of discretion in choosing who to pursue charges against and who to leave alone.

Roger Clemens is a high profile guy and would have been a big prize. But he also isn't exactly a bad guy threatening the safety of his neighbors. And while a lot of people think he did lie to Congress, even if he did, his motivation wouldn't have been profit or skewing public policy on some topic that would affect millions of Americans. His motivation would have been to protect his baseball legacy. Some people might think that is tied to a desire to earn more money through endorsement deals, etc. But I doubt that. Either way, though, if he lied to Congress, it wasn't something that adversely affected public policy. And so the federal prosecutors deciding whether to pursue charges against Clemens had a credible, defensible basis for deciding not to pursue these charges while still charging others who might lie to Congress on matters of substance.

Clemens will get his comeuppance in the baseball court, anyway. Everyone thinks he's a cheater, so he won't be elected to the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire is proof of that. For a guy who rose to the top of the game, I don't think there can be much worse punishment than being shunned now. If only the feds had recognized that before they wasted a whole lot of taxpayer money (MY money!) pursuing a charge that wasn't all that big a deal in the first place.


BellsforStacy said...

He'll get in. It's hypocrisy but he'll get in. Maybe not first ballot, but he's getting in. 7 Cy youngs? They have to. I mean that's why he fought this so hard and lied so hard, if he came out wishy washy like McG, he'd be shunned like McG. The acquittal gives the voters the clear conscience to vote for him.

But dude he lied. He lied and he used steroids and it sucks and I hate it, as a baseball purist.

As a tax payer I'm going ... why in the world is Congress wasting time on this? And I agree with everything else you said too. Just wanted to add my two cents.

S said...

I don't know. I think the Andy Pettites of the world are far less likely to have problems with the hall than the deniers. We'll find out in 2013, but I'd bet money Roger won't be a first ballot guy, which he should be based on numbers alone.

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