Ex-Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens wouldn’t cheat at the sport, his former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Charlie O’Brien told a jury during Clemens’s trial on charges of lying to Congress about drug use.
O’Brien, testifying yesterday for the defense in federal court in Washington, said Clemens refused to use damaged baseballs to gain an advantage over an opponent. O’Brien, Clemens’s catcher while the two played for the Blue Jays in 1997, said some pitchers used scuffed baseballs to get movement on the ball before it reached that batter.
“In a game, I tried to throw him a ball that had been scuffed,” O’Brien said. “He said, ‘I don’t need that.’”
Rusty Hardin, a lawyer for Clemens, asked O’Brien how often that sort of “cheating” was done during his 15 years in the major leagues.
“All the time,” O’Brien replied.
“But not by him?” Hardin asked, referring to Clemens.
“No sir,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien, the third witness called by the defense team, also backed up Clemens’s 2008 testimony to Congress that, after ballgames, syringes filled vitamin B12 were arrayed in locker rooms, ready to give players injections.
Syringes in Toronto
O’Brien testified that he remembers seeing four or five syringes lined up in Toronto and players waiting in line for an injection by the team’s physicians.
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.
Prosecutors, who rested their case May 29, allege Clemens concocted a “web of lies” to hide the fact that he used performance-enhancing drugs to recover from injury as he aged. The indictment contains 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.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton on May 29 dismissed two of the 15 false statements that make up the obstruction charge at Hardin’s request.
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 Blue Jays and the Yankees.
The prosecution’s evidence includes a needle and cotton with Clemens’s DNA that tested positive for steroids. The material was given to prosecutors by 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.
On cross examination, O’Brien was asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham to describe the color of liquid B12. He said he thought it was clear.
Last week, one of the government’s experts extracted B12 from a vial for the jury. It was red.
Hardin yesterday said the defense has 21 witnesses and may be able to finish its case by June 8.
O’Brien was one of four former baseball players who testified today in defense of Clemens. The others were Phil Garner, Darrin Fletcher and Michael Capel. The jury also heard from Steven August, who was traveling secretary and later assistant general manager of baseball operations for the Boston Red Sox while Clemens pitched for the team.
Fletcher, who was Clemens’s catcher on the Blue Jays in 1998, backed the ex-pitcher’s testimony to Congress regarding a pool party at the Florida home of teammate Jose Canseco in 1998.
McNamee told Congress and the jury that Clemens was at this early afternoon party. The occasion is significant because McNamee testified that after he saw Clemens at the party and the team returned to Toronto, Clemens sought his help administering a shot of steroids for the first time.
On the Road
Clemens told Congress in 2008 that he didn’t attend the party, which occurred while the team was on the road.
“I did not see Roger Clemens there,” Fletcher told the jury.
Fletcher said Clemens was likely golfing, which he said was his routine the day after pitching a night game.
Hardin said he plans to call Eileen McNamee, who is involved in a divorce proceeding with Brian McNamee.
Durham told Walton yesterday Eileen McNamee had been offered limited immunity from prosecution so she could testify for the prosecution. Durham said the government decided not to call her for “tactical” reasons.
Walton said he’d hear argument today about whether any immunity should still apply and what topics the defense plans to question her about.
Hardin said Eileen McNamee will discredit the testimony her husband gave.
“He painted a very false picture of their relationship with the children and used them as an excuse for things,” Hardin said.
The case is U.S. v. Clemens, 1:10-cr-00223, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).