Roger Clemens “dared to deny” that he ever took steroids or other banned drugs, his lawyer said in opening statements in federal court in Washington, where the ex-New York Yankees pitcher is on trial a second time on charges of lying to Congress about steroid use.
“It is always going to be about the fact that from day one Roger Clemens dared to say that ‘I didn’t do it,’ and that’s what he’s being prosecuted for,” Clemens’s lawyer Rusty Hardin told the jury today.
The 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, 49, is charged with one count of obstructing a congressional investigation, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. If convicted on all charges, he faces as long as 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.
A previous trial ended when U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial in July. He found that prosecutors improperly showed the jury a video clip of a 2008 congressional hearing in which the wife of a government witness, Andy Pettitte, was discussed. Walton had ruled earlier that the government could make no references to Laura Pettitte or an affidavit she gave Congress.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham said yesterday that Clemens lied to make himself look good and others look bad.
“He went beyond the straight denials,” Durham told the jury. “He told cover stories -- lies to cover up other lies.”
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 human growth hormone, or HGH, to remain competitive as he aged, Durham said.
The drugs were injected into him by Brian McNamee, his former personal trainer, who worked with the pitcher for 10 years, Durham said. The evidence includes a needle and cotton balls containing Clemens’s DNA that tested positive for anabolic steroids, he said.
Hardin, during an hour-long presentation today, showed the jury photos of Clemens at various stages of his career and said there are no physical signs or medical evidence that his client ever used the drugs.
Lack of Evidence
“There are no outward characteristics of someone using steroids,” Hardin said. “There is no evidence of steroid use besides Brian McNamee saying he did it.”
Throughout his opening statement, Hardin accused the government of telling only “half the story” when it came to evidence of Clemens’s alleged lies.
The government accused Clemens of creating a cover story for his steroid use when he told Congress that McNamee injected him with vitamin B12 and the anesthetic Lidocaine -- legal substances. Durham told the jury yesterday that there was no reason for a personal trainer to give such injections when the teams have doctors or other specialists to do that.
Hardin said former baseball players will testify that they have received injections of vitamins and other acceptable drugs from their trainers.
“There are ballplayers who will say ‘we got B12 from the Red Sox’ or ‘we got B12 from the Yankees,’” he said. “Can trainers legally do it? Maybe not, but they did.”
‘Hodgepodge’ in Picture
He displayed a photo of needles, cotton balls and gauze on a table next to a Miller Lite beer can that was made public by McNamee’s lawyer after Clemens and McNamee testified in Congress. The material was supposedly used on Clemens by McNamee and was the source of the government’s physical evidence, Hardin said.
Hardin called it “the most mixed-up hodgepodge of garbage you could imagine.” McNamee supposedly kept the material in the beer can for seven years and never told federal investigators about it until shortly before he testified before Congress in 2008, Hardin said.
Hardin said McNamee manipulated the evidence and an expert will testify it’s easy to add somebody’s DNA to a needle that’s never been used in an injection.
“It’s simple, and we contend that’s what happened,” he said.
Hardin said McNamee sought to profit from his fame as Clemens’s accuser. He showed jurors the cover of an unpublished manuscript by McNamee titled “Death, Taxes and Mac” and called attention to a $10 million lawsuit McNamee filed against Clemens in New York. He put up a picture of McNamee during an appearance on the Howard Stern show.
Pettitte will testify about his close relationship with Clemens and how Clemens told him in 1999 or 2000 that he had used HGH, Durham said. Clemens told Congress that Pettitte misheard or “misremembers” the conversation.
Hardin said the defense won’t challenge Pettitte, who he said remains a close friend of Clemens even though the two haven’t been able to speak due to the criminal case. He said Pettitte’s testimony will be some of the most convincing as to why Clemens didn’t take steroids or HGH.
Clemens has denied drug use since former U.S. Senator George Mitchell released a report on steroids in Major League Baseball on Dec. 13, 2007. Mitchell named Clemens in the report as having used drugs on 16 occasions from 1998 to 2001.
The charges stem from statements Clemens made to the House Oversight Committee in February 2008 in an interview with committee staff and later in a public hearing on ballplayers’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Denied Using Steroids
Under oath, Clemens denied ever using steroids or HGH, according to the indictment.
“If Roger Clemens truly took steroids and HGH from Brian McNamee, where’s the evidence he did it after 2001 where you’d think he had bigger need of it to prolong his career,” Hardin said.
Hardin put up a map of North America -- the graphic he used during the first trial -- that he said displayed the resources expended by the government to prove Clemens used steroids and human growth hormone after 2001. The effort involved 268 interview reports, 79 locations, 103 federal law enforcement officers and more than eight federal prosecutors, Hardin said.
“Despite this effort, they did not turn up one single thing,” Hardin said.
The government’s first witness was Phil Barnett, the committee’s chief of staff during the baseball probe who deposed Clemens. It was during Barnett’s testimony last year that the mistrial occurred.
The trial ended early today and won’t resume until April 30 due to the judge’s teaching schedule.
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