Judge may limit testimony
WASHINGTON - The judge in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, which begins today, is considering just how much of a salacious allegation against the star pitcher’s chief accuser is fair game, and he’s probably not going to let a parade of Clemens’s former New York Yankee teammates testify about their drug use.
US District Judge Reggie Walton held a pretrial hearing yesterday to consider what jurors will learn about trainer Brian McNamee, who has said he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone several times during the decade they worked out together. Clemens’s defense is focused on convincing jurors that McNamee is a liar, and his attorneys also want to introduce allegations that McNamee drugged and raped a woman in a Florida hotel pool while on a trip with the Yankees in 2001.
McNamee was questioned by local police and admits misleading them, but he has never been charged and has said he was trying to rescue the woman from drowning. Walton said he’s concerned that the rape allegation would be “extremely prejudicial,’’ but Clemens’s attorneys say it shows why McNamee would have a motive to fabricate evidence that he injected their client with illegal drugs.
The investigation occurred in 2001, the same year that Clemens helped lead the Yankees to a World Series championship and that McNamee says he decided to save needles and gauze that he used to inject the star pitcher.
Walton said he would reserve a final decision on whether to allow the rape allegations to be mentioned until the trial is under way.
Walton also is waiting to decide whether former Yankees Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, and Mike Stanton can testify that they got performance-enhancing drugs from McNamee. Walton said his tentative ruling is not to allow it because it will lead jurors to infer improperly that Clemens must have been getting illegal drugs if his teammates were, but he said he’ll decide during the trial.
Assistant US Attorney Steven Durham argued that the other players’ testimony will corroborate McNamee’s credibility, which is under attack by the defense, because it will prove the trainer had knowledge and ability to give drugs to Clemens. He said he expects the defense will argue that Clemens thought McNamee was getting vitamin shots from his trainer, but the teammates will testify “there was no misadvertising.’’
The hearing also raised an issue that Walton worried could postpone the trial. Attorneys revealed that the US House has refused to turn over audio tape of Clemens’s deposition by the House Government Reform Committee staff Feb. 5, 2008.
Clemens is accused of lying while under oath during that deposition and during testimony at a public hearing eight days later when he denied ever using steroids. Both prosecutors and the defense expressed concern that jurors will not be able to judge fully from a transcript whether Clemens was intentionally lying.
Pettitte is an important prosecution witness because he’s the only person besides McNamee to say Clemens admitted using performance-enhancing drugs. Pettitte says Clemens made the admission during a conversation in 1999 or 2000, but Clemens testified before Congress that Pettitte “misheard’’ or “misremembers’’ the conversation.