Friday, December 14, 2007

Don't Believe the Snitch

Yesterday, Major League Baseball was rocked by the release of the Mitchell Report which contained allegations of widespread steroid use by current and former players.

Of course, the place most people turned were the names of players who, by their very inclusion in this very official looking report, were obviously guilty. Quickly, sportswriters like Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, in an article entitled, "Clemens is no different than Bonds" jumped to the conclusion that just being mentioned in the report, for people such as the Rocket, was enough proof to convict. Not only that, but the entire legend of a guy I saw pitch in the College World Series 22 years ago, was "gone." As muckraking journalist and truthseeker Wetzel put it:

It's all gone now, the legend of Rocket Roger dead on arrival of the Mitchell Report; one of the greatest pitchers of all time, his seven Cy Youngs and 354 career victories lost to history under a pile of lies and syringes. Clemens was injected with performance-enhancing drugs and human growth hormones by his former trainer starting in 2000 and continuing many times through the years, trainer Brian McNamee told George Mitchell in great detail.

Wetzel, showing a laughable lack of knowledge about people's ability to lie openly in court when it serves their interests, even says...

"The smoking gun comes from McNamee, a former New York Yankees employee who used to work as a personal trainer for Clemens and his buddy Andy Pettitte, who is also cited in the report. McNamee is also a witness in a federal investigation and spoke to Mitchell and federal investigators under the penalty of perjury."

In other words, McNamee's allegations must be true as they were:
1. In the Mitchell Report
2. Given in "great detail," and
3. Spoken under "Penalty of Perjury"

So they must be true, right? "Why even have this trial?," in other words. I mean he's been convicted in the press and the press never gets it wrong, especially after the lessons they learned on those WMD's, right?

Well, as Neil Young once said "there's more to the picture than meets the eye" (hey, hey, my my!). You see, Mr. McNamee wasn't merely talking under penalty of perjury and "in great detail," he was also out to save his own skin. He's not merely a former Yankee employee. He's also a snitch.

As Roger's lawyer says,

Clemens's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said he had been told that McNamee was pressured by Jeff Novitzky, a tax investigator for the U.S. government, to give up names or face prosecution. McNamee agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors under the terms that he would not be charged with a crime if he told the truth to the federal authorities and to investigators working for the report's author, former Senator George Mitchell.

Hardin criticized Mitchell, for naming players based on uncorroborated allegations. "He has thrown a skunk into the jury box, and we will never be able to remove that smell...,"

When I was in law school I clerked for a great lawyer named Clarence Mock. I was hooked on criminal defense work when I read a transcript in which the police took a witness to the scene of a "crime" and asked for the truth. After he told them he saw nothing about 20 times, the officer said something to the effect of "Do you know what we do to people who cover up for crimes? We charge them as accessories and they're punished the same way the criminals are. In this case, that could mean the death penalty."

After the witness continued to deny seeing the alleged perpetrator, our client, at the scene of the crime, even under threats of getting the death penalty (an obvious bluff) he finally began asking to go home and claiming to be hungry. The officer said something like, "Just tell us what you saw and we'll go eat those hamburgers that are in my car." Of course, immediate hunger outweighed possible future lethal injection and the "witness" started telling the officer the "truth," that he'd seen our client standing by the side of the road. So they pat the witness on the back, thank him for telling the truth, and go eat the burgers. The only problem was as soon as the dog got his treat, he didn't want to play anymore and said, "You know, everything I told you I made up. I didn't see anybody there."

I tell this story, which later lead to an acquittal before a judge, to illustrate the lengths the state will go to to get the "truth" which is occasionally nothing more than the information necessary to fulfill their current theory of the case.

The "penalty of perjury" and the "great detail" that lie behind the lies that are told in court all the time don't compare to the threat a snitch is facing when told:
1. Tell us the truth.
2. We'll keep asking you until you tell us what we want to hear.

I have no idea whether the Rocket used the roids. But I know that the greatest pitcher of the modern era shouldn't be convicted on the word of a "Yankees employee," who not only had to endure the horror of working under Steinbrenner, but who was telling the authorities what they wanted to hear to keep from being a trainer in what Spongebob refers to as "the stony lonesome."

His own "performance" was enhanced by his desire to stay out of jail. Before we ruin and write off the Rocket, maybe we should consider the source: the snitch.

1 comment:

David Tarrell said...
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