Acquittal Could Help Clemens' Get Into the Hall of Fame

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Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig declined to comment on the verdict. Union head Michael Weiner said Clemens was "vindicated."

"We look forward to him taking his rightful place in the Hall of Fame," Weiner said.

Vincent called it a "big win" for Clemens and his lawyer. "It's a major defeat for the Justice Department — one of a series," he said. "I think the government is at a huge disadvantage against really good outside lawyers."

Clemens is the latest sports figure to frustrate the federal government's efforts to nab suspected steroid cheats despite prosecution costs of tens of millions of dollars.

Bonds, a seven-time NL MVP, was convicted of a single obstruction of justice count that he gave an evasive answer to a grand jury in 2003, and charges were dropped last year that he made false statements when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

A grand jury investigation of Lance Armstrong was dropped last winter without charges being filed, though the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency filed formal accusations last week that could strip the seven-time Tour de France winner of his victories in cycling's premier race. Armstrong denies any doping.

Federal agent Jeff Novitzky and his teams of investigators have obtained only two guilty pleas from athletes (Olympic track star Marion Jones and former NFL defensive lineman Dana Stubblefield); and two convictions (Bonds and sprint cyclist Tammy Thomas). Jones, who also pleaded guilty to making false statements about her association with a check-fraud scheme, was the only targeted athlete to serve a day in prison.

Bonds' conviction still must survive an appeal.

Clemens has no such worries. With a 354-184 record, 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, he would have been a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer when the votes are totaled in January. But since the day the Mitchell Report was released, his reputation has been tainted by suspicion.

Still, Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin was thrilled for Clemens, one of his boyhood heroes growing up in Texas.

"If a case goes on that long and the jury decides he's not guilty, then obviously he's telling the truth," he said.

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AP Sports Writers Tim Booth, Howard Fendrich, Mike Fitzpatrick, Janie McCauley, Ben Walker and Tom Withers and Associated Press writer Frederic J. Frommer contributed to this report.

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