Clemens Ready to Fight as Perjury Trial Opens Wednesday - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Clemens Ready to Fight as Perjury Trial Opens Wednesday

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Courtesy NY Daily News Courtesy NY Daily News

Courtesy AP

  

Roger Clemens' tenacious pursuit of victory on

the pitching mound is re-emerging as he enters federal court this

week to fight charges he lied about using drugs and ruthlessly

tried to discredit the former friend who says he did.

      Clemens is charged with perjury, false statements and

obstruction of Congress for telling a House committee under oath

that he never used performance-enhancing drugs during his 23-season

career. The record-setting pitcher who once seemed a sure bet for

baseball's Hall of Fame now could face prison if 12 jurors agree

that he lied and unanimously agree to convict him.

      The trial of the United States vs. William R. Clemens, scheduled

to begin Wednesday and last 4-6 weeks, will bring a parade of

celebrity athletes and plenty of sordid details to the staid

Washington federal courthouse. It will feature testimony about

illicit drugs, bloody evidence of injections, an abscess on

Clemens' backside allegedly caused by steroid use and allegations

that his accuser is a serial liar and a rapist.

      Clemens isn't the only all-star baseball player to be criminally

charged for lying about drug use, and prosecutors have a mixed

record. Infielder Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty in 2009 to a

misdemeanor for withholding information about an ex-teammate's use

of drugs when questioned in 2005 by congressional investigators.

But in their first jury test, prosecutors were able to convict home

run king Barry Bonds of just one count of obstruction of justice in

April for giving an evasive answer to a grand jury when asked about

drug use. The jury deadlocked on the three remaining counts that

Bonds made a false statement by saying he never knowingly received

steroids and human growth hormone from his trainer.

      But unlike the Bonds trial, where the trainer who allegedly

provided injections refused to testify against his former boss and

friend, Clemens' strength trainer, Brian McNamee, is the

prosecution's leading witness.

      For a decade, McNamee worked out intensely with Clemens and

helped shape "The Rocket" into one of the most powerful pitchers

in the major leagues, even into middle age. McNamee also says he

injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone, and even

kept the used needles that will be key scientific evidence at

trial.

      But McNamee, a former New York City police officer, is not an

ideal witness for the prosecution. He acted as a drug dealer to

several major league players and acknowledges he hasn't always told

the truth when asked about Clemens' drug use and other matters.

McNamee initially denied giving Clemens drugs, he says out of

loyalty to his best and longtime client, but eventually admitted to

federal agents he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

      Clemens' main defense has been to discredit McNamee, whom

Clemens' attorneys described in a recent court filing as "the only

person in the entire world who has ever alleged that he witnessed

Mr. Clemens use performance enhancing drugs at any time in his

storied career."

      Clemens' lawyers accuse McNamee of being a "congenital liar"

who made up the allegations against their client to save himself

from drug charges. They also want to introduce evidence that in

2001 McNamee drugged and raped a woman, then lied to police who

investigated the allegation but never charged McNamee with a crime.

"If Mr. McNamee's mouth is moving, he's making an inconsistent

statement," Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin said during a recent

hearing.

      Prosecutors are fighting to keep out evidence of the sexual

assault investigation and plan to call several witnesses to back up

McNamee's allegations against Clemens. Among them are Clemens'

former Yankee teammates Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike

Stanton, who all admit getting performance enhancing drugs from

McNamee. Pettitte is particularly important because he's the only

witness besides McNamee who says he spoke with Clemens about his

drug use.

      The six felony counts against Clemens stem from the House

Government Reform Committee's 2008 investigation into the use of

performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Former Sen. George

Mitchell had recently published a 400-page report that named

Clemens and 85 other former and current major league players as

users. Clemens denied the allegations and the House committee

responded by opening an investigation into the dispute surrounding

the Mitchell Report.

      Clemens appeared voluntarily before committee staff for a

deposition under oath on Feb. 5, 2008, in which he flatly denied

ever using anabolic steroids or human growth hormone. Former

Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, then the top Republican on the committee,

has said the panel was prepared to issue a written report based on

the depositions it took from all sides, but Davis says Clemens

wanted to testify. "There are people who think they can bluff

their way through, and it's hubris," Davis told ESPNNewYork.com

last year.

      Davis has also suggested Clemens, an all-star athlete who did a

lot for his community, might have been more credible if it was just

his word against McNamee's. But Pettitte backed up McNamee's

account.

      Hardin has disputed Davis' account. Harden said Davis urged

Clemens to testify to avoid having the committee issue a report

critical of him before he had a chance to tell the public his side.

      Either way, Clemens testified at a Feb. 13, 2008, hearing

without a subpoena and continued to insist he never used

performance-enhancing drugs. The indictment accuses him of making

15 separate false statements during both the deposition and hearing

testimony, including denials of drug use, insistence that Pettitte

must have misheard him about using drugs and denials that he

attended a party at admitted steroid user Jose Canseco's house.

      The six charges Clemens is accused of carry a maximum sentence

of up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. But it would

be unlikely even if he were convicted that Clemens would be

sentenced to nearly that long since he doesn't have a criminal record.

 

 

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