Geraldo Rivera appeared on the O'Reilly Show yesterday comparing Roger Clemens attorney with the attorney for Mark McGwire. Geraldo's position was that Rusty Hardin, Clemens' attorney, should be disbarred for allowing his client to testify. He said that Hardin is responsible for Clemens' federal indictment yesterday for allegedly lying to Congress.
Geraldo's position, like so many others including that of Major League Baseball, is that Clemens lied because he used steroids while winning some or all of his record-breaking seven Cy Young Awards as one of baseball's two best pitchers.
The period in question was when his trainer Brian McNamee alleged he was injecting Clemens with steroids between 1998 and 2001, when Clemens won two of his seven Cy Young Awards.
Clemens was "convicted" on steroid charges by George Mitchell, former Senate Majority Leader, who was hired by Major League Baseball to do a report on steroid use in baseball.
Clemens was singled out by name 82 times in the 409-page report, compiled by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell. Much of the information on Clemens came from his former trainer, Brian McNamee, once the Yankees' strength and conditioning coach.
The use of largely one witness against Clemens to name him so many times in a report could leave the impression that Clemens is banking on proving McNamee is lying. And the "conviction" was done with little or no defense other than Clemens' adamant denials of the charges of his alleged steroid use.
Are Geraldo, Mitchell, and MLB right even regarding Clemens' steriod use? Is Geraldo right regarding the disbarring of Clemens' attorney Rusty Hardin?
The first is yet to be decided. Famous people are often proved right in jury trials. Some say that they have the advantage because of their fame. The best example of this preference could be OJ Simpson. Yet, even in OJ's case, the glove incident was tantamount to the win by the defense team he hired.
If this proves to end up being Clemens against McNamee, the defense could hold more of the cards than we know. Only a trial seems inevitable here. Not the outcome. The outcomes of jury trials are often a toss-up depending on what the two sides, the prosecution and defense, are able to get before the jury and the jury's impression of the witnesses.
As far as the claim that Rusty Hardin should be disbarred, Geraldo is completely wrong.
His claim was that Clemens should have been handled in the same way as Mark McGuire. This means that he has both convicted Clemens before trial, wants the public to believe that attorneys have control of clients, and claims that the failure of Hardin to get his client to act in a certain way is a basis for disbarment. As an attorney himself, he knows full well that this is far from the truth.
Clemens is yet to be convicted. For this alone, despite the evidence largely from McNamee whose testimony is likely impeachable (that is can be attacked as wrong) in various ways, Geraldo is subject to some form of opprobrium because he knows full well that a trial can result in Clemens' vindication.
But there are two more, far more grievous aspects of Geraldo's statements.
The claim that Hardin should be able to control his client is complete nonsense. Clemens dictates the grounds of his defense and what he does. As the client, he has largely control over what is done. And he has complete control over what he chooses to do. Thus, despite legal advice one way or the other, Clemens controlled whether he appeared before Congress to testify. Geraldo's claim that he did not is completely wrong.
Worse still is the claim of the need to disbar an attorney. As with any other attorney, Geraldo is obligated to ensure that he does not mislead the public. Especially, making claims like this against another attorney. There is absolutely no factual basis for his contention that disbarrment is appropriate.
Geraldo Rivera remains a member of the New York Bar. Thus, he could be disciplined if he broke any of the rules of that Bar when he made his intemperate statements. And one of the cardinal requirements is being accurate and truthful. It appears his remarks, as I remember them, missed that mark by a very long shot.
In the end, Clemens has the right as does anyone in the United States to vindicate his name in court. We should be far less ready to judge him than Geraldo Rivera. And if he clears his name, many will need to apologize to him.