Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Tejada charge ramps up pressure
By Lester Munson
All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada has been charged with lying to congressional investigators about his knowledge of Major League Baseball players discussing or using steroids and other banned performance-enhancing substances, including his own use. Tejada will appear in a federal court in Washington on Wednesday, and it appears he will plead guilty. The charges and their timing raise legal questions. Here are some of the questions and their answers:
The charge against Tejada comes only a day after Alex Rodriguez admitted that he used steroids for three years, and only a few days after the release of nearly 300 pages of documents in the Barry Bonds steroids investigation. What is going on here?
Under the leadership of a new U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, federal prosecutors and agents are sending dramatic signals that their investigations into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball are still of a high priority and far from over. With the start of Bonds' perjury trial only three weeks away, the blockbuster developments are a sign that the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the IRS remain committed to ending the steroid era in baseball. More specifically, they signal that the Bonds prosecution is a matter of significance to the Obama administration and that the trial could be a major turning point. Baseball owners and players might have been lulled into a sense that things were settling down after the release of the Mitchell report in December 2007 and the last round of hearings on Capitol Hill early last year. But MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball Players Association director Donald Fehr now know that nothing is settled and that there is more to come.
What will happen to Tejada?
Although Tejada apparently is admitting that he lied and accepting responsibility for his actions, he could face time behind bars. Any term would be measured in months, not years. It is likely that he will be sentenced to a term of two to six months of incarceration. The sentencing is likely to occur after the opening of the 2009 season. After he enters his guilty plea Wednesday, the court system will conduct a pre-sentence investigation, which easily could consume five or six weeks. The judge will use the findings of the pre-sentence investigation as a factor in determining the length of the sentence. Tejada can ask that he serve any jail sentence during baseball's offseason, but there is no guarantee that his request would be granted.
Roger Clemens testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and might have lied. What does the Tejada charge mean for Clemens?
It is not good news for Clemens. The same prosecutors and the same grand jury that investigated Tejada are still investigating Clemens. The Clemens situation is more complicated and involves other players (Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch) and physical evidence (syringes, gauze pads) that required detailed investigation and testing. Any charge against Clemens would be more serious. Clemens was asked several series of questions under oath about his use of PEDs, and he offered numerous answers and explanations. Tejada is charged with one lie; Clemens could easily be charged with many more. The Tejada charge is a clear signal that the Clemens investigation is not over and that there may well be more to come for Clemens.
Last year, ESPN's "E:60" program confronted Tejada with two different birth certificates and pointed out that he has been using the certificate that shows him two years younger than his actual age. Will the fake birth certificate be a factor in his sentencing?
Probably not. Although his age is important to his baseball career, it is not a major factor in his legal status. The false certificate shows that he has lied in the past, but he is now admitting that he lied about PEDs. The admission of guilt likely will wipe out any negative impact the false birth certificate might have had.
Tejada is a citizen of the Dominican Republic. Will his admission that he lied to the U.S. Congress have any impact on his immigration status and his ability to work in the U.S.?
Probably not. Tejada is charged only with a misdemeanor. He has been in the U.S. long enough and enjoys an immigration status of sufficient stability that he need not worry about continuing to live and to work in the U.S. The charge does involve what is known as "moral turpitude" in the language of immigration laws, but it is not enough for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to initiate a deportation proceeding. Even if Homeland Security officials somehow decide to make an example of Tejada and try to force him from the country (an unlikely possibility), he would be able to prolong the process and stay for at least three to four years.
Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.