A daily recap of the Roger Clemens trial and the day’s happenings in court:
Background: The seven-time Cy Young winner has been charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress for telling a House subcommittee under oath in 2008 that he never used steroids or human growth hormone during his 24 seasons in Major League Baseball. He could face prison time if convicted, with the maximum penalty being a $1.5 million fine and 30 years in prison, although he likely would get only a maximum of 21 months in prison under sentencing guidelines.
What happened Wednesday: After US District Judge Reggie Walton finished jury instructions, each side was able to present its opening statements. Assistant US Attorney Steven Durham kicked things off, attempting to describe just how Clemens wound up before Congress and why he later was charged.
“The committee wanted to know why one of the most visible people in Sen. (George) Mitchell’s report was saying it was flat-out wrong,” Durham said. “The committee wanted to know if Sen. Mitchell got it right.”
Clemens was one of the 86 active or former major league players linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the Mitchell Report, released in December 2007. Clemens testified in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform two months later. Durham said Clemens was invited to speak to Congress and was not under subpoena. Rusty Hardin, Clemens’ lead attorney, said a subpoena was threatened if Clemens did not testify.
“They put him in a position of trial by Congress,” Hardin said.
Hardin went on to attack the credibility of former personal trainer Brian McNamee, Clemens’ main accuser, who provided authorities with needles and cotton balls that Durham said in court Wednesday contained both Clemens’ DNA and traces of anabolic steroids. The prosecution also called its first witnesses: former house parliamentarian Charles Johnson, FBI special agent John Longmire and House staffer Phil Barnett.
No drugs needed: Hardin used a multimedia chart to show the entirety of Clemens’ life in baseball, which included 24 seasons in the majors. (McNamee alleged he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, 2000 and 2001.) “There will be people who will testify from every stage of his career — high school, Boston, Toronto and Houston — who all say they have never seen any professional (athlete) work like this man did,” Hardin said. Clemens pitched six more seasons after he last was alleged to have used PEDs, finishing his career with the New York Yankees in 2007.
“Nobody has come forward with any credible source to connect Roger Clemens to steroids or HGH since August 2001,” Hardin said. “If he was supposedly taking the stuff to prolong his career, why would he stop?”
Prickly situation: One of the topics Durham and Hardin touched on was the use of human growth hormone by Debbie Clemens, Roger’s wife, before a Sports Illustrated photo shoot in 2003. Durham showed a US postal receipt of a package sent to Clemens’ house by Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse hand who pleaded guilty to dealing steroids. Prosecutors claim Clemens was present when McNamee injected Debbie Clemens, something Roger denies. Durham told jurors that if Clemens actually found out after the fact, he thought it was strange that Clemens didn’t call police or fire McNamee as his personal trainer. Hardin said Debbie will tell a different story than McNamee when she testifies.
What it all means: The biggest news of the day was the allegation that Clemens’ DNA was on needles and cotton balls that also contained anabolic steroids. Clemens’ legal team will try to play it off as tainted or manufactured, but it could prove to be a major factor in this case that otherwise revolves around the credibility of witnesses.
What’s next: The prosecution will continue with its case as Barnett finishes his testimony. There will be no court Friday.