Miguel Tejada became the first high-profile player convicted of a crime stemming from Major League Baseball’s steroids era by pleading guilty in federal court on Wednesday to misleading Congress about doping.
Under a plea agreement with the same prosecutors pursuing a perjury indictment against pitching great Roger Clemens, Tejada admitted he withheld information about an ex-teammate’s use of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) when questioned by a House committee’s investigators in August 2005.
Tejada also acknowledged he bought HGH while playing for the A’s, but said he threw the drugs away without using them. Prosecutors said they have no evidence to contradict that.
Later at a Houston press conference, Tejada fought back tears as he apologized for what he called a mistake. He did not take questions.
The misdemeanor can lead to as much as a year in jail. Federal guidelines call for a lighter sentence, and one of his lawyers Mark Tuohey said he expects Tejada to receive probation.
Federal Magistrate Judge Alan Kay set sentencing for March 26, during MLB spring training.
Kay asked more than once whether the Dominican Republic player understood this could affect his immigration status in the US. “Yes, your honor,” Tejada replied.
A letter sent by prosecutors to his attorneys last Friday outlining the terms of their plea deal said: “His guilty plea in this case may subject him to detention, deportation and other sanctions at the direction of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
Even after being chastised by Kay for merely nodding in response to questions, Tejada did not say much in Washington on Wednesday other than “Yes, your honor” or “No, your honor” during the 45-minute hearing.
Toward the end of the proceedings, when Tejada was asked how he wished to plea, his voice cracked as he replied: “Guilty.” One of his lawyers patted him on the shoulder.
The case stemmed from former Baltimore Orioles teammate Rafael Palmeiro failing a drug test in 2005 and being banned. Palmeiro said the positive test must have been caused by a tainted B-12 vitamin injection given to him by Tejada.
He told congressional staff “he had no knowledge of other players using or even talking about steroids or other banned substances,” court documents say.
But in the December 2007 Mitchell Report on drugs in MLB, Oakland outfielder Adam Piatt is cited saying he discussed steroid use with Tejada and provided Tejada with testosterone and HGH.
The report included copies of checks allegedly written by Tejada to Piatt in March 2003 for US$3,100 and US$3,200.
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