Updated 6:13 p.m.
By Mike Scarcella and Zoe Tillman
A federal jury in Washington found former baseball star Roger Clemens not guilty of charges that he lied to Congress about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The jury returned its verdict this afternoon in U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton's courtroom after less than 12 hours of deliberation spread out over three days.
Prosecutors charged Clemens in 2010 with perjury, making false statements and obstruction of Congress. The case centers on Clemens’ testimony at a 2008 congressional hearing that he never used the drugs, a claim that the government contended was a lie.
Clemens was working out with his sons near the Washington monument when he received a call about the verdict at about 4 p.m. Clemens' top lawyer, Russell “Rusty” Hardin Jr., told Clemens not to expect a verdict until two to four days.
Outside the courthouse, where a throng of spectators gathered after the verdict, Clemens choked up when he described how he felt. "I put a lot of hard work into that career," Clemens said, his voice breaking up. Clemens said: "It's been a hard five years."
"Way to go, Rocket!" a man yelled from the crowd.
Clemens was in court for ten weeks in Washington, taking a seat in a courtroom on the sixth floor of the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse. "It was great to see some old friends and teammates," Clemens said. He said it was "uncomfortable" sitting in court listening to the good and the bad, day after day.
Hardin, addressing reporters this afternoon on the courthouse steps, said: "Let me tell you something, justice won out."
"It got to where people thought arrogance was a man saying, 'I didn’t do it,'" Hardin said in post-trial remarks.
Hardin ended his brief remarks with a plea to the public. "I hope those in the public that made up their mind before there was a trial will now back up and entertain the possibility of what he's always said: Using steroids and HGH is cheating; it was totally contrary to his entire career," the defense attorney said.
Clemens denied ever using steroids or human-growth hormones. The first trial against Clemens ended in a mistrial last July after prosecutors introduced evidence that Walton had deemed inadmissible. The retrial began April 23.
The jury began deliberating at the end of the day on June 12, following weeks of testimony from witnesses including Clemens’ former peers on the field, his wife, Debbie Clemens, and Clemens’ former strength coach Brian McNamee, whose testimony took five days and more than 18 hours.
McNamee’s testimony was at the heart of the government’s case. He testified that he injected the former all-star pitcher with performance-enhancing drugs; Clemens’ attorneys argued that McNamee changed his story over time to fit the government’s narrative.
In closing arguments last week, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gilberto Guerrero Jr. told the jury that Clemens concocted a false story covering up his alleged drug use to protect his name.
Clemens, Guerrero said, made one false statement after another. “Folks, let’s face it. It’s not the lies that get you in trouble. It’s the cover up," he told the jury. "One lie leads to another. One false statement leads to another. Before you know it, it’s too much.”
Clemens’ attorneys, who included Cooley partner Michael Attanasio, painted McNamee as a serial liar taking advantage of his relationship to the baseball legend.
McNamee, Attanasio said, is "the only witness ever in the history of the world who says he gave or saw an injection to that man. You saw how hard the FBI looked for corroboration. Brian McNamee defines reasonable doubt."
The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement this afternoon: "The jury has spoken in this matter and we thank them for their service. We respect the judicial process and the jury’s verdict. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also wishes to thank the investigators and prosecutors, who pursued this case with tremendous dedication and professionalism after its referral to us from Congress."
Photograph by Diego M. Radzinschi