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Houston, we have a problem

Tejada, Astros new SS, could be in serious trouble

Posted: Tuesday January 15, 2008 1:19PM; Updated: Thursday January 17, 2008 4:02PM
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Miguel Tejada
Former Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada is facing a possible Department of Justice investigation.
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Although the Justice Department has not yet accepted the invitation from Congressmen Henry Waxman and Tom Davis to investigate whether Miguel Tejada lied to the staff of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- let alone has the Justice Department commenced an investigation or come to findings unfavorable to Tejada -- Tejada could find himself in serious trouble if the government can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he knowingly and willfully lied about a matter material to the Committee's investigation.

Title 18 of the United States Code (Section 1001) details the crime of lying to government officials and investigators in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States. Those convicted can face up to five years in prison. A number of prominent persons have been indicted for allegedly violating Section 1001, including Martha Stewart, who was later convicted of this crime, as well as conspiracy and obstruction of an agency proceeding. She would receive a five month prison sentence.

But again, we're along way from Tejada being convicted of a possible crime that has not yet been investigated, let alone led to an indictment.

Also keep in mind, in order to be convicted, Tejada would have to have knowingly and willfully lied. One possible defense would be that he did not fully understand the questions asked of him or the context in which they were raised, though the transcript seems to suggest that he understood the questions, which appear straightforward and direct. He could also argue that even if he lied, his lies were not material to the government's investigation, though this argument would be weakened by a fairly low threshold of materiality that examines whether his lie could have influenced the investigation. Also, the fact that Congressman Waxman took the serious step of formally seeking a Justice Department investigation may intimate that Tejada's alleged lies were, in fact, material.

One further argument by Tejada might relate to the quality of evidence found in the Mitchell Report, which was neither conducted on behalf of any jury, judge or government agency nor bound by the federal rules of evidence, and which also relied in part on the testimony of persons who may not be credible. Then again, the statements in the Mitchell Report implicating Tejada came from his former teammate, Adam Piatt, whose credibility has not (yet) been challenged.

Michael McCann is a law professor at Mississippi College School of Law and Chair of the Association of American Law Schools' Section on Sports and the Law.

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