Friday, February 13, 2009

Indicting Baseball Players, But Not DOJ Officials for False Testimony to Congress?

Charging Baseball Players but Not DOJ Officials for False Testimony to Congress: Statement of J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director

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Today's charge against major league baseball star Miguel Tejada speaks volumes about the skewed law enforcement priorities within the Justice Department.

At the outset, let me make clear that I am not stating that Miguel Tejada should not be charged. Rather, I find it shocking that the Department would elevate the prosecution of a major league baseball player for lying to congressional investigators about steroid use above the prosecution of a former Justice Department official who was found to have given false testimony to Congress about politicized and illegal hiring practices within the agency.

A recently released report from DOJ's Inspector General found that Acting Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman gave false testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee (both in his oral testimony and in written supplemental testimony) regarding his partisan misuse of his office and his violations of the Civil Service Reform Act.

Page 64 of the report states unambiguously that, "Schlozman made false statements about whether he considered political and ideological affiliations when he gave sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and in his written responses to supplemental questions from the Committee." The IG report further notes that Schlozman "made false statements to Congress" and referred the matter to the US Attorney's office for prosecution. Inexplicably, the U.S. Attorney's office for the District of Columbia declined prosecution of Schlozman. The same U.S. Attorney 's office now announces that it has decided to pursue charges against a professional baseball player.

Baseball may be the national pastime, but the Department of Justice is the nation's law enforcement agency. Federal prosecutors know that knowingly making false statements under oath to Congress, especially when that testimony comes in the context of a public corruption hearing, is a most serious crime. That the IG concluded that Mr. Schlozman was found to have done it both orally and in writing makes the decision not to prosecute him even more incomprehensible. If public officials can provide false testimony investigating corruption with impunity, how worthwhile is Congress's oversight authority?

Anyone who is a baseball fan is deeply saddened by the steroid scandals that have engulfed the game. As a career prosecutor in the Justice Department for over twenty years, I am surprised that DOJ sees making false statements to congressional investigators as a prosecutable offense, but making false statements to Congress is not. Fortunately, during his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Holder promised to re-examine the decision not to prosecute Schlozman.

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