By Nicole Auerbach and Erik Brady, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - Roger Clemens stared straight ahead, a blank expression on his face, as the jury foreman announced the not-guilty verdicts, one after another, in U.S. District Court on Monday.
Rusty Hardin, his attorney, rocked his head back in relief at the first one: not guilty of obstruction of Congress. Hardin seemed to know that meant a clean sweep was coming. And when the jury filed out, Clemens' four sons joined him in an emotional group hug, as if he had just pitched a shutout. His defense team had.
Clemens, 49, one of the greats in baseball history, was accused of lying to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs in the later years of his career. And when he walked to the microphones outside the courthouse minutes after the verdicts were read, the U.S. Capitol dome loomed just blocks away.
"Really, all of you media guys who know me and followed my career," Clemens said, before he choked up, pausing for several seconds, wiping his eyes. Hardin began to clap, and some fans applauded, one calling out, "Way to go, Rocket!"
His voice still shaky, Clemens continued, "I've put a lot of hard work into that career." Left unsaid was his contention that hard work, not steroids, earned his victories.
"It's good for the game of baseball, because I think we're trying to move on from all the stuff we went through the last 10 years, the PEDs, and I think we can focus on the game at hand," New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before a game vs. the Atlanta Braves in New York on Monday night. "It seems like there's a lot of focus on this trial, and it takes people away from being at the game."
Clemens former teammate, shortstop Derek Jeter, expressed similar sentiments.
"I'm happy for him," Jeter said. "I think it's good for baseball that it's over with. We can stop talking about it."
The story, however, is far from over. Brian McNamee, Clemens' chief accuser and the man whose word the jury rejected, sued Clemens for defamation in 2009. McNamee's attorneys said there would be a conference with a judge as early as next week and discovery could begin in a few months.
"Hey, look, (Clemens) may not be guilty, but he's certainly not innocent," McNamee attorney Earl Ward told USA TODAY Sports. "We will have an opportunity to move this thing forward in court in Brooklyn. There, the difference will be he will have to testify under oath. Here in D.C., he didn't have to testify. It will be a different playing field."
Richard Emery, another of McNamee's attorneys, said, "I'm never surprised by a jury verdict. ... My view is that it's just one chapter in a longer saga. ... Civil justice is very different than criminal justice."
Talk around the country immediately turned to whether the verdict would sway jurors of another stripe - Hall of Fame voters.
"A lot of speculation, man," Jeter said. "Like I've always said, you really have to be careful not to rush to judgment."
A save for Pettitte
The chain of events that led to trial began with the Mitchell Report, commissioned by Major League Baseball to investigate the history of performance-enhancing drug use in the sport. In that report, McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids, and he repeated it when he and Clemens testified before Congress.
Clemens' defense team hammered away at McNamee's credibility throughout the trial. The onetime strength and conditioning coach testified he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone, which Clemens denied under oath before Congress. He testified in a nationally televised hearing in 2008.
A key moment in the trial came when Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, who had testified that he once heard Clemens say he had used HGH, said his memory on that was "50-50."
"What clearly saved Roger Clemens was his friend Andy Pettitte, who said during the trial, 'I'm not really sure of what was said, I could be mistaken,' " said Stuart Slotnick, a criminal defense lawyer and managing partner of the New York office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney who was not involved in this case.
Home run king Barry Bonds was found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice in a San Francisco court last year as the jury reached no verdict on whether he lied to a grand jury when he said he never knowingly took PEDs.
"The government came after our two biggest stars and they got nothing," Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter told USA TODAY Sports. "It was a witch hunt. They got nothing on this sport. So leave us alone, please."
William Keane, a San Francisco defense lawyer who defended track coach Trevor Graham in the BALCO steroid case, said he was stunned by Monday's result. "They got Bonds on the last possible theory they could get him on, and that's still going to be a battle in the Ninth Circuit (court of appeals)," Keane said. "And it was generally assumed the evidence against Clemens was multiple times better than it was against Bonds.
"It's just an unbelievable loss for the government."
The court of public opinion
When word of a verdict came in after 4 p.m. ET Monday, observers crowded the sixth-floor courtroom. They chatted with nervous energy as a wait expected to be 10 minutes turned into more than 20.
Hardin explained later that Clemens was running on the national mall with his sons when word came. Attorneys had told him a verdict might be days away. Clemens came into court in a tan suit with blue shirt, his hair a bit unkempt. He smiled as he leaned back in his chair, straightening his burnt-orange Texas Longhorns tie.
As the favorable verdicts were read, defense attorney Michael Attanasio playfully punched Clemens and draped an arm around him. Clemens betrayed little emotion.
His four sons had wet eyes after the verdicts. After the group hug, Debbie Clemens approached and embraced each of the four boys. Then she hugged Clemens. They shared some words, faces close, and she kissed him. Then she dabbed his eyes with a balled-up tissue.
Clemens' stellar career produced 354 wins and a record seven Cy Young Awards in 24 seasons. Most of that was achieved in the time before he was accused of using steroids.
Jeter was asked if the verdict says anything about the steroid era in baseball.
"I'm not writing about it, buddy," Jeter said. "That's a question for you."
Or perhaps it is a question for the court of public opinion.
"What's important to Roger Clemens is his legacy in his own eyes is protected, even though people may still believe he used performance-enhancing drugs," Slotnick said.
"But this was about whether the government proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and they failed to do it."
Contributing: Jorge L. Ortiz, Bob Nightengale, Chad Jennings of The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News.