John Edwards and Roger Clemens are jerks.
This is not written as some half-baked reaction to the respective jury verdicts that found Edwards and Clemens not guilty of the charges brought against them. This is the scientifically verifiable conclusion of most people with any shred of human dignity.
John Edwards fooled around with Rielle Hunter — which, according to Hunter, she had to get in line to do — while his wife was dying of cancer. Once Hunter was knocked-up with Johnny’s love-child, Edwards got a wealthy donor to pay Hunter hush money. A jury concluded that this transfer of funds was not campaign-related.
“Rocket” Roger Clemens also has marital problems. In Clemens’ case, he didn’t cheat on his wife, but instead was quick to toss her under the bus when allegations of his own steroid use began to circulate. On Monday he was acquitted by a D.C. jury of lying to Congress about his own steroid use.
As a side note to the Clemens trial, most of the testimony revolved around whether Clemens attended a pool party at Jose Canseco’s house. Personally, if I were caught hanging out with the man who once fought former child-actor Danny Bonaduce to a draw, I’d lie about it too. But I digress.
The trials of both men were long and arduous. It was reported that someone was kicked off the Edwards jury for making goo-goo eyes at the former senator and presidential contender. Two people were dismissed from the Clemens trial for falling asleep.
In the end, both were found not guilty — Edwards of violating federal election finance laws and Clemens of perjury before Congress.
The juries in the Clemens and Edwards trials were not influenced by the celebrity of the defendants. Defendants with star power are convicted on a regular basis. Neither are the verdicts a judicial endorsement of the underlying conduct of either man.
Instead, the juries simply judged both men in the context of today’s political climate. Their verdicts are more a comment on public conduct than a vindication of the two men who stood accused.
A politician getting someone to pay hush money to a pregnant concubine is bad. However, in the context of a government run by immoral (and worse yet, amoral) politicians, it turned out to be conduct for which a jury would not send a man to prison.
Likewise, Clemens was charged with lying to Congress. The Clemens defense team clearly understood the political environment. During voir dire, potential jurors were asked questions about the Secret Service’s illicit exploits in Colombia and the GSA’s lavish parties in Las Vegas. By asking these questions, attorneys planted the seed that the Clemens trial was just another case of government bureaucrats gone wild with unnecessary federal spending.
Apparently it worked. No doubt the jurors (at least those not caught sleeping) picked up on the cues from counsel. After a 10-week trial, Clemens was acquitted.
Politics is a profession filled with jerks, cheats and liars. The jurors sitting in judgment of John Edwards and Roger Clemens likely could not comprehend why these two men were being held to a strict, criminal standard, while other jerks, cheats and liars freely roamed the streets of D.C.
By failing to convict in cases where the evidence to do so readily existed, the juries sent a message that they were not going to single out these two jerks for punishment.
Prioritize a list of all the things about which government officials have lied over the past decade. Baseball and sex will be pretty far down the page.
If all the politicians in Washington were to be charged every time they lied to Congress, the federal docket would be filled with new perjury cases daily. So many men and women would be attending arraignments that it would be impossible to get a quorum in any committee.
Following his trial John Edwards stated that God wasn’t through with him yet. I bet not.
As for Roger Clemens, whether he was a great pitcher or a cheater who tarnished the integrity of the game will eventually be decided when ballots are cast upon his entry to baseball’s Hall of Fame. I suspect those voters will be a much tougher jury that the 12 he recently met.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny, has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.