The perjury case against Roger Clemens for lying to Congress in 2008 has entered its seventh week; the prosecution having rested after calling 24 witnesses. Most murder trials don't take this long. I have said on earlier occasions that we would be appalled if the government failed to pursue criminal charges against someone simply because they were rich or famous. But isn't it equally wrong to pursue someone for those very reasons. I suppose an argument can be made that such trials receive greater publicity and thus serve as a greater deterrent, but that is hardly justification for such selective prosecution. Baseball players were literally dragged before Congress for the sole purpose of naming names. Congress already had in its possession through the Mitchell Report all of the information it needed about steroids in baseball to enact any legislation, if it chose to do so. But no, apparently having nothing else to do -- this was showtime in Congress at its finest.
It even proceeded to have a separate hearing (albeit at Clemens' request) for the sole purpose of determining whether or not Roger Clemens or his trainer, Brian McNamee, was lying. Determining credibility between conflicting witnesses is hardly the role of congressional committees. So as a result of his testimony Clemens was indicted for perjury. The first trial was aborted through misconduct of the prosecution and the second is now under way -- an epic four years in the making and millions of dollars in the production. And if, and I say IF, Clemens is convicted, what possible punishment awaits him to make this vendetta worth the time and money that has been devoted to it? Yes, I know lying before Congress is a serious crime and should be punished, but I have a sneaking hunch that not all perjurers before Congress are indicted.
I seem to remember all of the top executives of the tobacco companies raising their hands and swearing under oath that nicotine was "not addictive" (and that smoking was not harmful). Like a canyon echo each made this declaration knowing full well its falsity. I suspect that they would claim that they were expressing an opinion rather than stating a fact, but an opinion so blatantly and knowingly false is still a lie. So let's compare the use of prosecutorial discretion here: a baseball player who may have lied about taking steroids, which if true would have injured only him, or executives who lied about the dangers of their product which kills 400,000 people annually. Take your pick as to who should be in the dock.
If the purpose of the Clemens indictment was to publicize the dangers of steroids and its use in baseball -- that has already been accomplished. No, I suspect that what is driving this trial and what precipitated the Congressional hearing was to obtain a Cy Young Award winner's scalp. The resources of the Justice Department are limited. I in no way wish to minimize the seriousness of perjury, but in the scheme of things, aren't there more serious crimes and more dangerous criminals to pursue than a famous baseball player who may have lied to Congress about his own conduct? Let's pursue criminals based upon the seriousness of their crimes not by the popularity of their names.