Thursday, February 28, 2008
Clemens is horrible
Thursday, February 28, 2008
FBI opens inquiry into whether Clemens lied to Congress about steroid use
BY TERI THOMPSON, MICHAEL O'KEEFFE and NATHANIEL VINTON
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITERS
Thursday, February 28th 2008, 4:02 PM
The FBI has opened an investigation into whether Roger Clemens perjured himself when he told Congress that he never took performance-enhancing drugs, a move that is sure to set the seven-time Cy Young Award winner up for intense scrutiny.
"The request to open an investigation regarding the congressional testimony of Roger Clemens has been turned over to the FBI and will receive appropriate investigative action by the FBI's Washington field office," said FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman.
"We can't talk about our investigative actions when an investigation is open,” Weierman said.
FBI agents will bring vastly more investigative power to the case than the lawyers for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform could bring to bear on the pitcher in that committee’s two-month probe, which ended with a criminal referral on Wednesday.
The bureau will likely also have to work out some sort of arrangement with Jeff Novitzky of the IRS and Matthew Parrella of the United States Attorney’s office in Northern California – two men who have spearheaded much of the government’s prosecution of drug use in sports.
Novitzky attended the Feb. 13 hearing where Clemens and his accuser, Brian McNamee, made statements before the committee that were so contradictory that one of them had to be lying.
“Everybody wants a piece of it – it’s like when the Navy joins the Army for a war,” said a lawyer close to the Mitchell Report fallout. “Novitzky is involved. I would be shocked if Novitzky and Parrella aren’t involved – they investigated McNamee, the Mitchell Report, on and on. This is about money, too – it’s got to be on someone’s budget. And the FBI has bodies. And Novitzky was always working with the FBI.”
Clemens denied using illegal drugs during a Feb. 5 deposition with the committee's lawyers and in the highly contentious hearing on Feb. 13. But in a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the committee's ranking Republican, said Clemens' denials were contradicted by evidence gathered during the committee's investigation - including testimony from the Rocket's longtime friend and teammate, Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte.
"We are writing to ask the Justice Department to investigate whether former professional baseball player Roger Clemens committed perjury and made knowingly false statements during the Oversight and Government Reform Committee's investigation of the use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball," the letter said.
"We believe that his testimony in a sworn deposition on Feb. 5, 2008 and at a hearing on Feb. 13, 2008 that he never used anabolic steroids or human growth hormone warrants further investigation."
Because of his insistence on fiercely and publicly challenging the allegations in the Mitchell Report that he used steroids and human growth hormone, Clemens has already turned his life inside out.
Longtime friends McNamee and Pettitte were forced by the government to testify against Clemens, who identified his wife Debbie as a human growth hormone user. Even his rear end was subject to congressional scrutiny, when the issue of an abscess possibly caused by steroid use came up.
But all of that pales compared to an FBI investigation, which will mean Clemens will be scrutinized by law-enforcement agents who have subpoena power to look at his bank accounts, phone bills, medical records and computer hard drives.
Every friend, every relative, every teammate or business associate is now a potential witness if the government decides to build a case against him.
"You'll see people with direct knowledge who know about what went on. Clemens will start to hear from all these people, wanting to know why they're getting subpoenas and phone calls from the feds," one lawyer familiar with the case said. "It's a nightmare."
The probe comes as no surprise to Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin. "We've always expected they would open an investigation. They attended the Congressional hearing. So, what's new?" Hardin said in a statement Thursday.
Hardin said he has been telling his client for months that the Justice Department would get involved in the case and Hardin told the Daily News following the Feb. 13 hearing that he expected a criminal referral. It is a move the Texas lawyer said he welcomed.
"Fortunately, we now move from the court of public opinion, where there are no rules, to the court of law where the rules very specifically level the playing field. Whether it is in a criminal investigation or the upcoming civil trial, what has been a frenzied rush to judgment will be replaced by a careful and unbiased review of all of the evidence," Hardin said on Wednesday.
But Hardin makes a federal investigation sound as inconvenient as a visit to the dentist. The reality would be much more difficult.
Novitzky helped build the perjury case against Barry Bonds, and Parrella, an assistant U.S. Attorney, successfully prosecuted Marion Jones for lying to investigators. They and the FBI could descend on New York, Houston and elsewhere to determine if Clemens should be charged with perjury.
Former teammates - including Pettitte, admitted steroid user Jose Canseco, BALCO witness Jason Giambi and Chuck Knoblauch, who was also questioned by the committee - are sure to be witnesses. Clemens' son Koby, a prospect in the Astros' farm system, could also be questioned.
The Rocket's agents, Randy and Alan Hendricks, would be on Novitzky's to-do list. So would Kelly Blair and Kevin Schexnider, the owners of a Texas gym where, as the Daily News reported, Pettitte's father, Tom, had picked up human growth hormone.