Clemens Lied to Protect Image, U.S. Says at Retrial’s Start

Former New York Yankees Pitcher Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens, right, former New York Yankees pitcher, is charged with one count of obstructing a congressional investigation, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury in connection with a congressional probe of ballplayers’ alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/Bloomberg

Roger Clemens, facing a second trial on charges of perjury in a congressional investigation, told lie after lie to make himself look good and others look bad, a U.S. prosecutor said in opening statements.

“The choices he made are what tell the story of this trial,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham said today in federal court in Washington. It is a “story of deceit, dishonesty and betrayal. A story of vanity, ego and pride.”

Earlier today, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton seated a 12-person jury after almost four days of vetting 70 Washington residents for possible service in Clemens’s trial. The four men and eight women will decide whether the ex-New York Yankees pitcher lied to Congress when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

Members of the panel include a public school teacher of deaf fourth graders, an administrative assistant at the Canadian embassy, a former executive director of a psychologists’ association, a cashier at a Giant food store who never heard of Clemens and a special police officer for the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

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, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner faces as long as 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.

Video Clip

Walton declared a mistrial in July after finding 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.

Rusty Hardin, a lawyer for Clemens, will give his opening statement tomorrow morning.

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 told jurors during his hour-long presentation.

The drugs were injected into him by Brian McNamee, Clemens’s 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.

Pettitte ‘Misremembers’

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.

The government also plans to call Brian Cashman, the Yankees general manager, and Kirk Radomski, a former clubhouse assistant for the New York Mets, who will testify that he sent HGH to Clemens’s home in Houston in 2003 for Clemens’s wife, Debbie, Durham said.

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 between 1998 and 2001.

The criminal charges stem from statements Clemens made to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in February 2008 during a private interview with committee staff and later in a public hearing on ballplayers’ use of performance-enhancing drugs. Under oath, Clemens denied ever using steroids or HGH, according to the indictment.

‘Cover Stories’

“He went beyond the straight denials,” Durham told the jury. “He told cover stories -- lies to cover up other lies. The web of lies continued to grow until he got trapped in it.”

Those “cover stories” included Clemens telling Congress that McNamee injected him with vitamins or other permissible drugs, he said.

Durham showed the jury a picture of Clemens holding up his right hand while being sworn in for his congressional testimony. It was the same hand Clemens used to win 354 games and gain “great fame” in the league, he said.

Another photo shown to the jury showed Clemens in a swimming pool with a young boy seated on the edge. Durham said the boy was a big fan of Clemens. Durham used the picture to set the time frame for when Clemens began allegedly using steroids in 1998. The picture also may have been an attempt to bolster the government’s position that Congress was investigating drugs in baseball because of potential harm to children who emulate their heroes.

‘Pick a Fight’

Durham said the government didn’t “set out to pick a fight” with Clemens and no one forced him to testify before Congress in February 2008. Congress invited him to appear after Clemens began a “disinformation campaign” to “attack” the credibility of McNamee and the Mitchell report, Durham said.

“The evidence will show that his greatest adversary that day four years ago was Roger Clemens himself,” Durham said. “The man who built this tangled web of deceit, betrayal and hurt.”

After the jury was excused for the day, Hardin asked Walton for permission to introduce evidence about a 2001 rape investigation in St. Petersburg, Florida, where McNamee was interviewed by police. McNamee made false statements in the course of that probe, prosecutors said in a 2011 court filing.

Opened Door

Hardin said the government “opened the door” to details about that probe when Durham told jurors that Clemens continued to work with McNamee after his firing from the Yankees.

He said McNamee lied to Clemens about the Florida incident.

Prosecutors have a responsibility to find out “whether their witness is still lying to them,” Hardin said.

Walton said he’ll decide later how much information about the Florida matter the jury can hear.

In a ruling from the bench today, Walton said prosecutors won’t be able to ask Pettitte, who has admitted to using human growth hormone, where he received the drugs. Pettitte has said he obtained HGH from McNamee.

Clemens’s lawyers decried what they called an attempt by prosecutors to use that testimony to establish “guilt by association.”

Walton said that Pettitte made “an independent decision” to use HGH to “hopefully help him heal.” Given that, the significance of the testimony to the government’s case doesn’t outweigh the prejudice to Clemens, he said.

The case is U.S. v. Clemens, 10-cr-00223, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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