Speaking softly, nervously and in detail, Brian McNamee testified about the life-changing moment when, he said, he first gave Roger Clemens a ”booty shot” of steroids.
The government’s star witness in the Clemens perjury retrial took the stand Monday and told the jury that he injected one of baseball’s most successful pitchers with steroids about eight to 10 times when they were with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998.
”I knew what I was doing was illegal,” McNamee said. ”I wish to God I could take it back.”
Clemens is charged with lying to Congress when he testified in 2008 that he had never used steroids or human growth hormone. The first attempt to try him last July ended in a mistrial when prosecutors showed the jury a snippet of videotaped evidence that had been ruled inadmissible.
The retrial took until its fifth week to get to the heart of the government’s case: McNamee is the only person who will claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens using performance-enhancing drugs.
In his thick New York accent, McNamee covered a lot of ground in about four hours on the stand — and he still has much more to tell when he returns Tuesday. He recalled how he met Clemens when McNamee was the strength and conditioning coach of the Blue Jays during the 1998 season. He said Clemens gave him a $1,000 tip at the end of spring training, that Clemens approached him one day in the clubhouse and asked him to get rid of a bag of some 20 to 30 bottles of steroids.
Then came the fateful day in June when he was asked by Clemens to come to Clemens’ apartment in the Blue Jays’ Skydome stadium after a game.
McNamee said he found alcohol, needle and gauze and the anabolic steroid Winstrol laid out in the bathroom. He said he felt ”a little uncomfortable” while preparing the shot because he’d never done anything like it before. He said he then walked into Clemens’ bedroom.
”Roger pulled down his pants, exposing his right buttocks cheek to me,” McNamee said. A few seconds later, Clemens said he was ready. McNamee said he then ”plunged the fluid in into his buttocks.”
After it was done, they ”exchanged pleasantries,” according to McNamee.
”That,” McNamee concluded softly, ”was the first time I injected Roger Clemens.”
McNamee said he didn’t feel good about the moment, but he got the sense that Clemens ”wasn’t good at doing the `booty shot.”’
”I did it,” McNamee said, ”because I wanted to help and I wanted to keep my player safe. … I wasn’t under the assumption that was the first time he did that.”
McNamee recited details of another injection later in the season, one he said he gave Clemens in a hurry in a small supply room in the Tampa Bay clubhouse on the getaway day of a road trip. McNamee was so concerned about being discovered that he pressed his foot against the closed door while giving the shot.
McNamee said the injections stopped after Clemens developed an abscess on his buttocks later in the season. He said Clemens walked by and ”threw a whole bag (of steroids) at my locker and said, `I’m done with it.”’
McNamee recalled some scenes meticulously; other times he was more vague. He occasionally fidgeted with his white shirt or tan jacket and sometimes took long pauses before answering questions. It took him a few seconds to recall his wedding date — perhaps understandable, given he’s going through a divorce — and he initially said three months, instead of three years, when asked how long he worked for the New York Police Department before becoming a bullpen catcher and batting practice pitcher for the New York Yankees in the mid-1990s.
McNamee was barely audible the first time he uttered the word ”Roger.” He and Clemens were once good friends; he worked with Clemens for the better part of a decade, in an official capacity with the Blue Jays and later with the Yankees, and also as a personal trainer who would run Clemens through demanding workouts, often at Clemens’ home in Texas.
Clemens watched intently from the defense table, occasionally taking notes or reading materials.
When McNamee returns to the stand Tuesday, he’s expected to testify that he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs in 2000 and 2001. The prosecution is also expected to head off, as best it can, an upcoming cross-examination that is expected to attack McNamee’s integrity. The defense wants to paint McNamee as a serial liar out for personal gain.
The two sides spent the morning arguing over which parts of McNamee’s personal life can be revealed in front of the jury. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton quashed a Clemens subpoena for McNamee’s divorce records, saying it was a ”fishing expedition” to look for information to disparage McNamee.
The judge did rule that Clemens’ team could bring up evidence of McNamee’s alleged alcohol problems, including two convictions for driving under the influence. Walton also said that if the defense had evidence that McNamee had obtained prescription drugs online without a prescription, that too could be mentioned.
But the judge said again that defense lawyers may not mention that McNamee was investigated for an alleged sexual assault over a 2001 incident at a St. Petersburg, Fla., hotel involving a woman who was found to have a date rape drug in her system. Walton said the defense could refer to it only as a ”serious criminal investigation.” The defense will be able to say that McNamee lied to investigators during that investigation. Charges were never filed in the case.
The day began with the government winning a significant battle about the testimony of former Clemens teammate Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte testified about a conversation 12 years ago in which Clemens supposedly admitted to using HGH — but then acknowledged under cross-examination there was a ”50-50” chance he might have misunderstood Clemens’ remark. The defense wanted the judge to strike Pettitte’s testimony about the conversation, but Walton ruled that it will be up to the jury to decide how much weight to give it.