Baseball pitching great Roger Clemens was found not guilty Monday of lying to Congress during an investigation of steroid use among major league players.
The case against Clemens involved one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. He was not charged with illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs, but his denial of such use was part of the case against him.
A federal jury found him not guilty on all six counts.
Clemens wiped his eyes after the verdict was announced, then hugged his likewise emotional sons. His lawyer, Rusty Hardin, meanwhile, gave a thumbs-up to the jury before leaving the courtroom.
"Mr. Clemens, you're free to go," Judge Reggie Walton said.
Minutes later, Clemens thanked his family, lawyers and others who have supported him during the trial and in the years since he was accused of using illicit performance enhancing drugs.
"I put a lot of hard work into (my) career," he told reporters, choking up on the steps of the federal courthouse in Washington. "I appreciate my teammates that came in, and all the e-mails and phone calls."
Hardin thanked the jury, and lavished praise on his client for his demeanor and character.
"It has been 4½ years since we listened to a picture that doesn't match up at all with the man we have grown to know and love," the lawyer said. "He is not only a seven-time Cy Young winner, he's a hell of a man."
Members of the U.S. attorney's office in the District of Columbia said little about the verdict Monday afternoon, beyond thanking the jury and investigators in a brief statement.
"We respect the judicial process and the jury's verdict," the U.S. attorney's office said.
Six days earlier, federal prosecutor Courtney Saleski told jurors in closing arguments that Clemens "wanted to protect his brand, he wanted to protect his livelihood," in denying the use of steroids during a 2008 investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives into the problem.
The Clemens defense team disputed whether the government had made its case, telling the jury all the evidence came through a former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, who had incentive to lie.
"You saw Brian McNamee, the only witness in the history of the world who says he gave or saw an injection of that man," said defense attorney Michael Attanasio. "One person in the entire world." During closing arguments, the defense cited the lack of corroborating witnesses.
It took about eight weeks for the prosecution and defense to question 46 witnesses, and the most direct conflict came among expert witnesses as to how to interpret a collection of discarded medical items that allegedly linked Clemens to steroid use. The pitcher did not take the stand in his defense.
Soiled medical wrappings, cotton balls, drug vials and hypodermic needles that McNamee kept were interpreted differently by each side. Witnesses for the government said genetic material linked with Clemens suggested it was impossible for McNamee to fabricate the evidence.
But defense witnesses on the same topic said storage in a beer can for years allowed commingling and contamination of materials, making reliable conclusions impossible, and the evidence nearly worthless.
CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said a big part of Clemens' defense was, in essence, putting Congress on trial -- claiming they were never serious about using whatever testimony was given to shape future legislation.
"He was basically saying, Congress was putting on a show. They didn't care," Toobin said of Hardin. "They just wanted Clemens to come up there, they weren't planning to do anything with the testimony."
This was the second trial for Clemens. About a year ago, a mistrial was declared before the case reached the jury. The government's lawyers played video evidence the judge had already banned. Prosecutors said it was an editing mistake, but the Clemens defense team suggested prosecutors were unprepared and had gotten off to a bad start.