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What were Roger Clemens’ Charges?

Jun 21

As we all probably know, Roger Clemens has been back in the news following his recent acquittal. As you will remember, a federal grand jury indicted Clemens on August 19, 2010 on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of steroids. The indictment charged Clemens with one count of “contempt of Congress,” three counts of “making false statements” and two counts of “perjury” in connection with his February 2008 testimony to Congress.

Clemens’ first trial began on July 13, 2011, but on the second day of testimony the judge in the case declared a mistrial after prosecutors showed the jury evidence they had previously been told by the judge not to show. The verdict from his second trial came in on June 18, 2012. Clemens was found not guilty of all charges. When all this hit the news again, a friend of mine asked, “What exactly was Roger Clemens charged with?”

Most reporters are incorrectly stating that Clemens was found innocent of six counts of perjury when, in reality, he only had two counts of perjury. The first crime listed on his indictment was for “contempt of congress.” Contempt of congress is the act of obstructing the work of the United States Congress or one of its committees. Historically the bribery of a senator or representative was considered contempt of Congress. In modern times, contempt of Congress has generally applied to the refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by a Congressional committee — usually served on someone to force them to testify or produce documents.

For example, if a person receives a subpoena from Congress, and refuses to fully carry out what the subpoena orders, congress can issue a “contempt citation.” The presiding officer of the chamber is then instructed to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney. It is then the duty of the U.S. Attorney to refer the matter to a federal grand jury for potential prosecution. The punishment for contempt of Congress includes a jail penalty is not less than one month or more than twelve months, with a potential fine.

Clemens other charges were “perjury” and “making false statements.” Perjury is the willful act of lying while under oath concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. Therefore, the lie must be made under oath at a hearing and must affect the outcome of the hearing. For example, if a sworn witness lies about his age in court, this lie is only considered to be perjury if the man’s age affects the outcome of the case. Perjury carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years.

“Making false statements” prohibits lying to a federal officer or concealing information from a federal officer. Essentially, a “making false statements” charge is the same as a “perjury” charge without the requirement that you be under oath. To prove a “making false statements” charge, the government must show that the witness lied to a federal officer in order to “undermine functions of governmental departments and agencies.” This crime carries a fine and a prison sentence of up to 5 years, just like perjury.

After explaining all this, my friend then asked, “Why did the government spend so much time and money on THAT?” This may be the best question of all!