June 13 (Bloomberg) -- Jurors were urged both by lawyers for Roger Clemens and by prosecutors to use common sense when deciding whether the former pitching star intentionally lied to Congress to cover up his use of steroids and human growth hormone.
Before the jury began deliberating yesterday on a verdict for the former New York Yankee, federal prosecutors said in closing arguments that Clemens gave false testimony about using performance-enhancing drugs to safeguard his image as one of Major League Baseball’s best pitchers.
“Why? So as not to tarnish his name, that Clemens brand we heard about,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gilberto Guerrero said during an hour-long presentation in federal court in Washington. “He had to keep the secret safe -- the one he and Brian McNamee knew.”
The jury of eight women and four men considered the case for about 15 minutes before being excused for the day. Deliberations resume this afternoon, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said.
Rusty Hardin, one of two lawyers for Clemens to deliver closing arguments, accused the government of “horrible, horrible overreach” -- going after him for challenging accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
“It is not arrogant to say ’I didn’t do it’,” Hardin said. “It is not arrogant to pay a price to be here. It is not arrogant to say ’I worked for 24 years to be the best there was.’”
Michael Attanasio, a lawyer for Clemens, said the government, having failed to prove its case, sought to convict Clemens on minor mistakes in his sworn testimony to Congress in 2008, such as whether he attended a pool party at a teammate’s home 10 years earlier.
“Please don’t let them trick you with this evidence,” Hardin said.
Hardin and Attanasio spent most of their two hours attacking the credibility of Clemens’s accuser, Brian McNamee.
Attanasio called McNamee, who trained Clemens for almost 10 years, “the definition” of reasonable doubt, and asked jurors whether they’d rely on him for information on “one of the graver matters” of their lives.
They said when McNamee was confronted by federal investigators about his connection to drug dealers he made up a story about Clemens. He kept adding to that story, they said.
“If you’re a really serious, serious pathological liar, you take a little bit of truth and wrap a bunch of stuff around it,” Hardin said.
He put up a chart of more than two dozen statements he said were lies or errors McNamee made in his testimony.
They ranged from McNamee saying he never kept drugs at his home to testimony about how he retained medical waste from injections he gave Clemens and other ballplayers.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in his league, is charged with one count of obstructing a congressional investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs by professional athletes.
He’s also charged with three counts of making false statements and of perjury stemming from his testimony to a House panel. If convicted, he faces as long as 21 months in prison.
Jurors heard from 46 witnesses over 26 days of testimony. They included former teammates of Clemens, such as New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, Clemens’s wife, Debbie, and the estranged wife of McNamee. Clemens, 49, didn’t testify.
Much of the government’s case turns on whether jurors believe the testimony of McNamee, who prosecutors referred to as “Roger Clemens’s drug dealer” and his “dirty little secret.”
McNamee, who spent six days on the witness stand, 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 a needle and cotton with Clemens’s DNA that tested positive for steroids. The material was given to investigators 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.
The charges include 13 false or misleading statements that Clemens made to Congress in 2008 -- some involving denials of drug use, others having to do with frequency of vitamin B12 injections and the pool party at the home of fellow Blue Jay Jose Canseco’s Florida home in 1998.
The government’s only other witness directly tying Clemens to using performance-enhancing substances is Pettitte, the former All-Star pitcher currently playing for the Yankees after a one-season retirement. Pettitte, 39, testified Clemens told him that he had used HGH while the two were working out in either 1999 or 2000.
Clemens testified under oath to Congress that he told Pettitte it was his wife who used HGH. Under questioning by Attanasio, Pettitte agreed there was a 50 percent chance he misunderstood Clemens. Debbie Clemens testified that McNamee had given her an HGH injection.
Yesterday, Guerrero told jurors that Pettitte’s long friendship with Clemens accounted for his inconsistent testimony.
“Pettitte 100 percent heard correctly when his friend confessed to drug use,” Guerrero said. “He didn’t want to testify against his friend. They’re almost like brothers. You think Andy Pettitte would put Roger Clemens in too much harm’s way? He was almost jumping at the opportunity on cross examination to say 50/50.”
Hardin told jurors that Pettitte’s testimony “takes him out of the equation” for deciding Clemens’s guilt.
“Put Andy Pettitte over here, then what are you left with?” he said. “Brian McNamee.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney Saleski, who spent about an hour giving the government’s rebuttal argument, sought to use McNamee’s damaged credibility to attack Clemens’s congressional testimony that McNamee injected him with only vitamin B12 and lidocaine.
“There can be no doubt that Roger Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers in Major League Baseball so why would he let Brian McNamee -- would you let that guy? -- inject him with needles?” Saleski said.
Saleski said the main thing missing from the defense case was anyone saying they saw McNamee inject Clemens with anything.
She also told the jury that it was Clemens’s decision to go before Congress.
“Your common sense will tell you everything you need to know about this case,” Saleski said. “Roger Clemens made a gamble. He wanted to protect his brand. He wanted to protect his livelihood. He did that at the expense of our Congress. He threw sand in their eyes.”
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.
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