We leave in the morning for Tempe, Arizona, where I’ll be covering the Angels minor league camp March 18-20.
Before I go, some housekeeping items.
I wrote on Wednesday about a fanciful theory suggesting that a political connection between Angels owner Arte Moreno and the White House might have something to do with Moreno pressuring Gary Matthews Jr. to make a public statement regarding a news report that Matthews ordered human growth hormone in August 2004.
The column generated more than the normal correspondence. In particular, I exchanged a series of e-mails with an attorney familiar with federal laws and prosecution practices.
In the Wednesday column, I wrote about a January 2003 Justice Department policy called the Thompson Memorandum which according to articles I researched was designed to help circumvent the Fifth Amendment by having corporations pressure their employees to testify without due process and the possibility of self-incrimination.
The attorney wanted me to know that the Thompson Memorandum was rescinded in December 2006, replaced by a new policy called the McNulty Memorandum.
Searching Google, you can find any number of opinions about this new memo, and quite frankly I have better things to do. I’ll suggest you try this analysis at the Association of Corporate Counsel web site.
My main concern was that the Thompson Memo might provide a means for Major League Baseball to avoid further government scrutiny regarding its many drug scandals if it could somehow force Matthews into making a public statement which would not be protected from self-incrimination or due process under the Fifth Amendment.
It’s unclear to me whether the McNulty Memo makes a difference along these lines. My attorney correspondent said we should draw an important distinction between individuals who have Fifth Amendment rights, and corporations which do not. My concern remains — that a corporation could somehow cut a deal with the government by forcing an employee to make an incriminating statement either in public under duress to a corporate witness who might record such a statement as evidence.
If someone with more time than me, and more legal expertise, wants to take a stab at it, please feel free to post a reply to this thread.
My Wednesday column also referred to the growing scandal regarding the alleged sacking of politically appointed United States Attorneys (USAs) who were insufficiently "loyal" to the Bush Administration.
Although the current investigation by the Albany District Attorney has received most of the headlines, keep in mind that any charges brought there are violations of New York state law. A separate federal investigation is reportedly under way in Mobile of the Applied Pharmacy lab where Matthews allegedly ordered the HGH.
If you read Matthews’ statement released on Wednesday, he said, "I have never taken HGH — during the 2004 season or any other time." He did not, however, deny ordering it from the Mobile lab.
Unless someone was rolling film at the time, it’s highly unlikely anyone could prove that Matthews took HGH in August 2004. If he lied, and it could be proven, theoretically obstruction of justice charges might be brought.
More importantly, though, is that the federal investigation has largely flown under the radar. But that might be about to change, and I have to wonder if that’s what motivated Moreno’s sense of urgency.
The Mobile Press-Register reported on March 9 that a federal investigation in Mobile has been underway at least since last August, when the Drug Enforcement Administration raided Applied Pharmacy. According to the article, the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department were also involved.
According to the article, "Other court records reflect that Mobile-based federal prosecutors have been looking at Applied Pharmacy since at least September 2005."
The assistant USA in Mobile told the reporter that their investigation remains ongoing, although she can’t comment.
According to ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish, a federal grand jury will convene later this month regarding the case, although that will be held in closed session.
One can imagine the publicity a USA would get from grilling a famous athlete under oath on the witness stand. It turns out that Alabama’s current U.S. Senator, Jeff Sessions, was once a USA himself.
So I looked up the current USA in Mobile.
Her name is Deborah Rhodes. Bush loyalist or not, she has an impressive resume. She has a long successful background in narcotics enforcement.
She was nominated in September 2005 to replace one David York. Why Mr. York resigned, and whether he was forced out for being insufficiently "loyal", I’ve no idea. But one can presume that Ms. Rhodes passed the political litmus test.
So if you want to dig out of the garbage that tinfoil hat I asked you to wear on Wednesday, let’s hypothesize … Ms. Rhodes and her staff are along for the ride when the DEA raids Applied last August. They seize the company records. They see who are the customers.
The story breaks about Matthews not because of a Justice Department leak, but because the Albany D.A. took along two Sports Illustrated reporters for his raids. Somehow the reporters learn about Matthews’ alleged involvement with Applied in Mobile.
At that point, might Arte Moreno have called the White House and asked for "insider information" regarding the Applied investigation? Keep in mind that Moreno is a major fundraiser for Bush and the Republican Party. If he calls Karl Rove, and Rove calls Alberto Gonzales, who is the USA’s boss … well, you can put the pieces together.
As I’ve said, this is all fanciful speculation, but if there’s more to the Matthews story than what’s been told, Moreno might have been tipped to it, hence his panicked response in the press.
Anyway, back to baseball … I’ve posted on FutureAngels.com the recording of the final game ever played at historic Ray Winder Field. The Arkansas Travelers begin play next month in a new stadium, Dickey-Stephens Park. This seems like a fitting way to end our "Minor League Game of the Week" series that runs every winter on FutureAngels.com.
I leave in the morning for Tempe. My wife and I are driving from Orange County. We’ll be there for the minor league camp games on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. We’ll be driving back on Wednesday. So my presence on line will be somewhat minimal. I’ll be shooting plenty of photos as always, and will have the camcorder for video highlights. If time permits, some of it may show up later in the day.
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