Monday, January 7, 2008

The Rocket's New Suit

One of the things you've been hearing often since the Mitchell Report came out is this: "If what they said about Roger Clemens isn't true, why isn't he suing somebody?"

Well, now he is. His 14-page lawsuit was filed, rather unusually, on a Sunday night. Does the fact that he's suing someone for defamation prove Clemens is clean? Of course not. As the old saying goes, all you need is the filing fee (in the case of Harris County, Texas, it's $197) to sue someone. You don't necessarily need the truth.

And yet, think what you will about Clemens, but this is indisputable: he's in the position of having to prove he didn't do something. That's not the way it's supposed to work in America. Our system says they have to prove you did it.

And in this case, the they is a rather shadowy thing. While George Mitchell may be the guy who rolled Clemens' name out for public approbation, there's an interesting paragraph in the lawsuit about how Clemens wound up in the crosshairs.

The paragraph describes how Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella and IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky (key figures on the BALCO case) leaned on Clemens trainer Brian McNamee to name Clemens as a steroid user, despite his earlier denial that Clemens was juicing. McNamee's account of his own federal interrogation, included in the Clemens lawsuit, suggests that the Feds were the ones who brought up Clemens' name and insisted McNamee finger the Rocket.

Remember, McNamee was staring down the barrel of federal prosecution. Is it any surprise that he would have told the interrogators what they wanted to hear?

In short, while Clemens is suing McNamee, this paragraph suggests his real gripe may be with federal law enforcers. The question lingers: if the Justice Department thought Roger Clemens was using illegal drugs, why isn't he being charged with a crime? Is it possible that they couldn't build a criminal case, so they used George Mitchell to do their dirty work?

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