Andy Pettitte, a key prosecution witness in the perjury trial of former New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, said he’s no longer certain his friend told him he used human growth hormone.
Pettitte, under questioning today by a lawyer for Clemens, was asked whether it’s possible he misunderstood Clemens in a conversation the two had about the performance-enhancing drug while working out in 1999 or 2000.
“I could have,” Pettitte said.
Michael Attanasio, the Clemens lawyer, then asked whether it was fair to say that there’s a 50 percent chance he misunderstood Clemens.
“That’s fair,” Pettitte said.
Pettitte, 39, the former All-Star pitcher who signed a minor-league contract this year after a one-season retirement, was the government’s second witness in the trial, which began in Washington on April 23.
He testified yesterday about two instances where he talked with Clemens about human growth hormone, or HGH. One discussion occurred at Clemens’s Houston home during a workout session in the 1999 or 2000 offseason while both were pitching for the Yankees.
Pettitte, who said he met Clemens in 1996, told jurors they became close friends after Clemens joined the Yankees in 1999. Pettitte described Clemens as his mentor.
‘Help With Recovery’
“Roger mentioned to me that he had taken HGH and that it could help with recovery,” Pettitte said. “That’s really all I remember of the conversation.”
After Pettitte finished testifying today, Attanasio asked U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton to strike Pettitte’s testimony on Clemens’s purported admission of HGH use.
“There is no definitive evidence,” Attanasio said. “As Mr. Pettitte sits here today, the best is 50-50. Maybe he said that or maybe he misunderstood.”
Walton, who said he was surprised that the government didn’t ask Pettitte what his current memory of that conversation was, asked Attanasio to file a motion.
“I think the record is left with the jury that Mr. Pettitte is not sure whether Mr. Clemens told him that or not and he may have misheard him,” Walton said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham argued that Pettitte’s recollection of the 1999 or 2000 conversation should be fodder for closing arguments.
Lied to Congress
Four men and eight women on the jury will decide after four to six weeks of evidence whether the seven-time Cy Young Award winner lied to Congress when he said he never used performance- enhancing drugs. Clemens maintains he told the truth.
Clemens, 49, is charged with one count of obstructing a congressional investigation, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Clemens faces 15 to 21 months in prison if convicted.
Clemens, who pitched for the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays during a 24-year career, used the anabolic steroids and HGH to remain competitive as he aged, Durham told jurors during his opening statement.
Durham asked Pettitte yesterday whether he asked Clemens any follow-up questions about HGH during that workout session. Pettitte said he didn’t and he wasn’t sure why.
Pettitte testified that he had another conversation with Clemens about HGH in March 2005. He said it occurred in the kitchen of the team’s spring training facility in Kissimmee, Florida, and coincided with the first series of congressional hearings on drug use by Major League Baseball players.
Guidance From Clemens
Pettitte said he was concerned about what he would say if reporters asked him whether he’d used performance enhancing drugs, so he sought out Clemens for guidance.
“I had asked him what he’d say if anyone asked him whether he used performance-enhancing drugs,” Pettitte said. “He said ’What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘I told you my wife, Debbie, used it.’ ”
Durham asked Pettitte how he reacted.
“I was a little flustered because I had thought he told me he did,” he said. “I thought there was no use asking him about it now and walked out.”
Attanasio asked Pettitte whether his “gut reaction” to Clemens’s response to him in 2005 was that he could have misunderstood Clemens in their previous conversation about HGH.
“Yes,” Pettitte said.
The case is U.S. v. Clemens, 10-cr-00223, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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