U.S. prosecutors completed their perjury case against Roger Clemens after calling 24 witnesses over six weeks in an effort to convince jurors that the baseball star took banned drugs and lied about it to Congress.
The government, which rested yesterday in federal court in Washington, didn’t say whether it plans to put on a rebuttal before submitting the case to the jury for a verdict.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton denied a request for an acquittal by Rusty Hardin, a lawyer for Clemens, even as he dismissed two of the 15 false statements that make up an obstruction of Congress charge. Clemens’s defense case may last seven to eight days, Hardin said.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is charged with one count of obstructing a congressional investigation, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury stemming from his testimony to a House panel investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs including steroids and human growth hormone.
The ex-New York Yankees pitcher faces as long as 21 months in prison if convicted. He denies having used the drugs.
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham said the trial would be about the “web of lies” Clemens concocted to hide the fact that he used performance-enhancing drugs to recover from injury as he aged. He said there were 15 false or misleading statements that Clemens made to Congress in 2008 -- some involved drug use denials, others had to do with frequency of vitamin B12 injections and whether he attended a pool party at a teammate’s Florida home in 1998.
Trust in McNamee
Much of the government’s case depends upon whether jurors believe the testimony of Brian McNamee, Clemens’s former trainer.
McNamee, who spent six days testifying, told jurors that he gave the ballplayer injections of steroids and HGH during the 1998, 2000 and 2001 baseball seasons while both men worked for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Yankees.
The prosecution’s evidence includes the needle and cotton with Clemens’s DNA that tested positive for steroids. The material came from McNamee, who said he saved needles, gauze and vials from one of the injections in 2001. He told jurors he kept some of the items in a Miller Lite beer can that he took from the recycling bin in Clemens’s apartment.
With just one eyewitness, the government has sought to build its case on the testimony of investigators, forensic analysts and former trainers to bolster the credibility of McNamee or rebut what Clemens told Congress in February 2008.
Eugene Monahan, who was the Yankees athletic trainer from 1973 until last year, disputed Clemens’s account to Congress that syringes containing B12 were lined up in the locker room after games or that players received such injections through their clothing. Brian Cashman, the Yankees general manager, gave similar testimony.
Clemens’s defense team has attacked the credibility or the recollection of the government’s witnesses and called into question the testing of physical evidence linking Clemens to steroids. The tactic may have worked with jurors, who submitted more than 30 questions through Walton for the government’s DNA expert that echoed several points made by the defense in its cross examination.
Rules on Limits
The government’s case was made more difficult by court rulings limiting what prosecutors could ask key witnesses, such as McNamee and Clemens’s former teammate Andy Pettitte. There, prosecutors were not initially allowed to name other Major League Baseball players who received HGH or steroids from McNamee.
Prosecutors have appeared especially cautious not to repeat the errors that led to last year’s mistrial, which Walton declared after the government showed juror’s evidence that had been ruled inadmissible.
Some of those rulings were later overturned due to credibility attacks from Clemens’s defense team, which has sought to brand McNamee as a liar who manipulated the evidence he gave to the government.
Under questioning from Hardin, McNamee said that some of the medical waste he preserved from an injection he gave Clemens in 2001 was mixed with needles used on other baseball players.
Hardin’s attack on McNamee included accusations of alcohol abuse and engaging in a fraudulent scheme to obtain diet pills. Hardin also got McNamee to admit to the jury that he manipulated a dead-on-arrival scene while he was a New York City police officer.
After McNamee’s cross examination, Walton allowed the government to call two additional witnesses, including former baseball player David Segui, to back McNamee’s story that he’d saved needles used by players for drug injections.
“He said he had kept the darts to get his life back,” Segui told jurors.
Clemens’s defense team used these additional witnesses to put testimony before the jury that McNamee was upset that Clemens wasn’t paying him enough money. McNamee testified that Clemens paid him about $5,000 a month to train him.
The government’s only other witness directly tying Clemens to performance-enhancing drugs was Pettitte, the former All-Star pitcher currently playing for the Yankees after a one-season retirement. Pettitte, 39, testified Clemens told him, while the two were working out in either 1999 or 2000, that he’d used HGH.
50 Percent Chance
Clemens testified under oath to Congress that he told Pettitte his wife Debbie used HGH. Under questioning by Michael Attanasio, another lawyer for Clemens, Pettitte agreed there was a 50 percent chance he misunderstood Clemens.
The 50 percent line led the defense to ask that Pettitte’s testimony be thrown out as unreliable. Yesterday, Hardin asked Walton to throw out one of the allegedly misleading statements tied to the Pettitte conversation. Walton denied the requests, saying it was for jurors to decide on the truthfulness of the witness.
Prosecutors have also had to contend with the schedule of Walton, who has delayed or postponed trial days due to teaching assignments or other matters.
The trial, which began April 23, has lost three jurors, leaving a single alternate. Two jurors were dismissed for sleeping.
Hardin began the defense case by calling two men who knew Clemens when he played baseball in high school in Texas. Both said Clemens was known for his workouts.
“Have you known any professional athlete in your life that worked as hard as Roger Clemens?” Hardin asked Michael Capel, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who is a general manager of a car dealership in Houston.
“No sir,” he answered.
The case is U.S. v. Clemens, 1:10-cr-00223, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com.