Federal prosecutors said Monday they did not give baseball steroids investigator George Mitchell complete copies of affidavits implicating players in the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Responding to applications filed by The Associated Press and Hearst Corp. in cases in Arizona and New York, prosecutors urged a judge to keep under seal the names of the players identified in sworn statements signed by IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Francisco filed papers opposing the attempts by the AP and Hearst seeking unredacted copies of search warrant affidavits. The U.S. Attorney said both motions were a “thinly veiled attempt to benefit financially” by publicizing the names of people involved in the government’s steroid probe and does not serve a public need.
The Arizona case involves former major league pitcher Jason Grimsley and the New York case deals with former New York Mets clubhouse employee Kirk Radomski.
The government also argued that most of the facts concerning its investigation of Radomski were publicly disclosed after he pleaded guilty in April to felony charges of distributing steroids and laundering money. In the filing, made in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, N.Y., prosecutors said disclosing the names would harm an ongoing investigation of steroid use in sports.
“At its core, this is a choice between the government’s articulated legitimate investigative need versus (Hearst’s) pecuniary interest in selling newspapers,” according to the filing.
The San Francisco Chronicle and the Times Union of Albany, both Hearst-owned newspapers, asked a federal judge in June to make public the 2005 sworn statement by Novitzky. The government said 36 current and former players were supplied drugs by Radomski, but their names were blacked out in the document.
Federal prosecutors said Radomski agreed to cooperate with Mitchell as part of his guilty plea.
“The government’s decision struck a balance that advances to societal interests in exposing the insidious subculture surrounding the steroid world while at the same time preserving the integrity of its investigations,” prosecutors wrote. “Public disclosure would likely harm both the government’s investigation and the Mitchell Commission’s ability to use the information provided by Mr. Radomski.”
The AP case involved an affidavit by Novitzky stating that Grimsley implicated several players. David Segui told ESPN in June 2006 that he was one of the blacked-out names, and the Los Angeles Times reported in October that Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada also were named, along with Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons.
Players in the Times report denied using steroids, and Randy Hendricks, the agent for Clemens and Pettitte, said he was told Grimsley denied making the statements attributed to him by Novitzky. Grimsley has not commented publicly and a federal prosecutor said the report contained “significant inaccuracies.”
“The release of the unredacted information in this case would create a substantial probability of prejudice to the ongoing investigation,” prosecutors said.