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Roger Clemens and Perjury

In a piece in the New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, explains how a baseball icon has been reduced to the status of a suspected felon. Once again, the culprit is Clemens’ failure to simply remain silent in the face of governmental intrusion into his life.

Whether he took steroids or not, he now faces a conviction for talking. No talking, no conviction.

Simple as that.

This is why criminal defense lawyers tell their clients that the best way to avoid prosecution for a crime is to never give up your right to remain silent. The minute you start answering questions put to you by police, prosecutors or government officials like members of Congress, especially while testifying under oath, you expose yourself to criminal liability.

Roger Clemens is a classic example of talking your way into a felony. Too bad. All he had to do was shut up. Along with Marion Jones and Barry Bonds, he is accused of crimes resulting from allegedly making false statements. In addition to three counts of making false statements, he faces the more serious charges of two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of Congress during his testimony in a nationally televised hearing in February 2008 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The lesson here is that the default position should be to remain silent. However, if you do talk, don’t lie. Andy Pettitte, Clemons’ close friend and colleague, who provided information that implicated Clemons in lying to Congress, admitted having used performance enhancing drugs. He didn’t lie and he is not facing prosecution for perjury.

When your criminal defense attorney tells you to remain silent, listen to him or her. They might know a thing or two about the pitfalls of trying to outsmart the government.