Commentary

Why questions about age, name could pose problems for Tejada

Updated: April 22, 2008, 2:48 PM ET
By Lester Munson | ESPN.com

When ESPN's Tom Farrey confronted Miguel Tejada last week with his actual birth certificate and a two-year discrepancy in Tejada's claimed age, Tejada walked out of the interview. The exchange will be shown on "E:60" Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET.

Tejada's age, what he said when he signed his first baseball contract and what he has told Major League Baseball ever since raise legal questions about his immigration status in the U.S. They also raise the possibility that any deceit might be added to a perjury investigation of Tejada -- an investigation requested by a congressional committee looking into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Here are some of the questions and their answers:

"E:60" Reports On Tejada

Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada admitted last week that he is 33, rather than 31 as listed in the Astros' media guide and other baseball records. He made the admission to the Astros after "E:60" correspondent Tom Farrey asked him about the discrepancy in his birth certificate records. The "E:60" report on Tejada airs tonight at 7 p.m., ET, on ESPN.

• "E:60" Home

Is it a crime to lie about your age when you enter the U.S. and apply for a green card or a work visa?

Yes, it is technically a crime to lie to immigration authorities. But before any criminal charge is made against Tejada, federal investigators must determine exactly what Tejada said in his immigration paperwork and whether any lie is "material." Tejada now claims he lied to MLB but told the truth in all immigration matters. We'll see. The FBI will examine all of Tejada's immigration applications. He also might have lied about the spelling of his name. The "E:60" report shows that his actual name is Tejeda, not Tejada. If he lied about his date of birth and his name, federal investigators must determine whether the deception was material. They will ask: "How important is the lie?" In most cases, a false birth date or a one-letter change in the spelling of a name is not enough to file charges. Such discrepancies are not material to the more important purposes of an immigration inquiry. Federal prosecutors would need more before they would undertake a court case.

Can the lies about his birth date and his name cause any other problems for Tejada?

Yes. They can cause serious problems and put Tejada into a position in which he must make some difficult decisions. Tejada already is under scrutiny for possible perjury in statements he made to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. FBI agents are determining whether Tejada lied to committee investigators. With this new revelation, investigators have additional leverage over Tejada and could lean on Tejada for additional information about drugs and other players. If he is not forthcoming, the agents would say, he could face perjury and immigration charges. Tejada was in a bad spot before the recent revelations, and now it's much worse. Art Leach, a former federal prosecutor in Atlanta, told "E:60" that the agents investigating Tejada might use the new revelations to "threaten his immigration" status and to "put the squeeze on Tejada" to "get more information up the line" on other players. If Tejada cooperates, he would be informing on other players. If he refuses to cooperate, he could face criminal charges, possible jail time and even deportation back to the Dominican Republic.

How could they deport Tejada if he is here legally and has a green card?

The process of obtaining a green card includes a question on drug use. The fact that Tejada has a green card indicates he denied drug use in his application. If federal authorities can show he was using steroids, he would be guilty of a false statement at the time of his most recent green card application. In contrast to an erroneous birth date or a one-letter change in the spelling of a name, drug use rises to the level of material in the process. Exposing drug use is one of the prime objectives in immigration inquiries. A lie on drug use would be enough to initiate a process that would eliminate Tejada's green card and result in his deportation.

Is there evidence Tejada was involved with steroids?

There is strong evidence that Tejada was involved and lied about it. Tejada was questioned by congressional investigators after Rafael Palmeiro, attempting to explain a positive drug test, claimed Tejada gave him injectable vitamin B-12 that might have been tainted. After investigators asked Tejada about Palmeiro and B-12 injections, they continued their inquiry with questions about Tejada's years (1997-2003) with the Oakland A's. They asked Tejada whether he was aware of any steroid use among Oakland A's teammates, and he denied any knowledge of that. He was asked directly: "You never knew of any other player using steroids?" He replied: "No." Former teammates Jose Canseco and Adam Piatt say Tejada discussed steroids with them and purchased testosterone and HGH from Piatt. Piatt's testimony is particularly troublesome for Tejada. Piatt, the only baseball player to cooperate with former Sen. George Mitchell in his investigation, says he explained the drugs to Tejada, then purchased drugs from Kirk Radomski for Tejada. Using personal checks, Tejada paid Piatt $6,300. Radomski confirms Piatt's account of a purchase for Tejada. With Piatt, Radomski and Canseco lined up against him, Tejada is in a bad situation and could face charges of making false statements to federal agents.

Is there any way out of this for Tejada?

There might be, but he won't like it. It is clear from the wide-ranging inquiry under way that agents are looking for additional evidence of drug use by other players. If Tejada cooperates with federal prosecutors and offers them something they don't already have, he might be able to settle with them and continue a great baseball career. It would be a difficult thing to do and would violate baseball's code of clubhouse omerta. Piatt and Andy Pettitte cooperated with investigators, admitted drug use and walked away without charges. Tejada should take a serious look at their examples. If he continues to lie, whether it's about his age or his knowledge of drug use in baseball, he won't be able to walk away the way he walked away from the "E:60" interview. Instead, he would find himself facing jail time and deportation.

Lester Munson, a Chicago lawyer and journalist who reports on investigative and legal issues in the sports industry, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.