Excellent commentary in The Washington Post today on the Justice Department’s overreach. Take note — it appeared in the Sports section in a column by Sally Jenkins. As is typical with Jenkins, she doesn’t pull any punches in describing Justice’s failed prosecution of Roger Clemens for ostensibly lying under oath on his use of steroids. Here’s Jenkins’ take:
Someone in authority at the Justice Department should have said to the federal investigators who pursued Clemens since 2007 on perjury charges, “You don’t have the evidence that can win a conviction.” The government never had a case, and knew it didn’t have a case (or at least should have), and brought the case anyway.
That’s not a prosecution. It’s a persecution. When federal agents willfully confuse the difference between those two words — when they bring a charge simply because they want to embarrass and punish someone for something they can’t actually prove — we’re living in a place we don’t recognize.
Jenkins points out that prosecutors had very little evidence and much of that was dubious. “The case was built literally on garbage,” Jenkins wrote. No wonder the jury found Clemens “not guilty” on all counts.
Here’s her big punch at the end:
What matters is that a handful of investigative fanatics abused their governmental power and bent federal law all out of shape in order to go big-game hunting using Roger Clemens as a target. It matters that the case failed to meet any reasonable threshold for prosecution, yet no one stopped them.
The Clemens case came about because a handful of zealots who are presumably bored by their real jobs were overly empowered by former president George W. Bush’s mention of the performance-enhancing-drug issue in his 2004 State of the Union address. Investigators suddenly abandoned actual gumshoe detective work to chase athletes and headlines, all under the auspices of cleaning up sport, claiming PED usage has become a so-called societal problem.
Overreaching by government is far more harmful than any of the alleged offenses. It has poured more poison into the system than is contained in any needle.
Should have been on the editorial page — but maybe WaPo readers read the Sports Section more attentively.