(WASHINGTON) — The lawyer for Roger Clemens ripped into the evidence against him today as a “hodgepodge of garbage” and said key prosecution witness Brian NcNamee was a liar.
Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin ridiculed charges in his opening statement that the retired pitching ace lied to Congress about the use of steroids and human growth hormones.
“What guy would go to Congress and lie under oath knowing what the consequences would be?” Hardin said.
Hardin told the jury of 10 women and 6 men (there are 4 alternates) the case was focused on Clemens because his client “Dared to deny he was guilty of a crime.”
Clemens was indicted in August 2010 on charges of obstruction of Congress, perjury and false statements as a result of testimony he gave to Congress regarding use of performance enhancing drugs, specifically steroids and human growth hormone, or HGH.
Clemens was charged with making the false statements to congressional investigators in a deposition on Feb. 5, 2008. The perjury charges arose from his Feb. 13, 2008 testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Last year Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial after the prosecutors referenced evidence that the judge had prohibited from being introduced to the jury.
“The case has always been about one man’s insistence on clearing his name, against all odds,” Hardin said of Clemens and his denials that have pitted him against his former trainer Brian McNamee.
McNamee cooperated with investigators for the Mitchell Report, which examined steroids in baseball on behalf of Major League Baseball. McNamee’s claims in the report that he injected Clemens with steroids and growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001 were among its most significant revelations. The report led to congressional hearings with Clemens squaring off with McNamee.
Hardin said that the Clemens defense team would welcome key testimony from Clemens’ former Yankee teammate Andy Pettitte. Pettitte’s testimony is expected to be a key part of the prosecution’s case. Hardin today said that Pettitte had misremembered conversations he and Clemens had about the use of HGH.
Hardin told the jury the case is the story of two men, Clemens and McNamee. Hardin alleged that McNamee was seeking to gain fame and fortune by making allegations about Clemens. Hardin showed the jury a picture of McNamee leaving from his May 2010 grand jury appearance wearing a tie with an advertisement of a company he was representing.
He also showed pictures of McNamee appearing on the Howard Stern radio show and the draft of a book he had written called Death, Taxes and MAC as examples of him seeking to cash in on his allegations about Clemens.
“Is there any market for this book if he hadn’t made these allegations?” Hardin asked the jury.
Hardin told the jury about Clemens work ethic as a ballplayer that led him to win seven Cy Young awards spanning back to his late night practices in high school in college. Hardin told the jury that Clemens was a top competitor who won Cy Young awards long before and after he ever trained with McNamee.
Hardin also showed the jury pictures of Clemens over his career showing that his body never changed as the result of any steroid use.
Hardin told the jury that although prosecutors described a dejected Clemens getting shelled in game three of the 1999 American League Championship Series and being pulled out in the third inning claiming in the locker room, “I need McNamee”, Hardin noted the prosecutors forgot to tell the jury that Clemens later led the Yankees to a World Series victory in 1999.
“They are so tragically wrong,” Hardin told the jury. “They have taken one perspective and fit it into everything.”
Hardin saved his harshest criticism of the government’s case detailing evidence that McNamee provided to federal agents, the needles and gauze pads allegedly containing Clemens blood and steroids.
While the prosecutors showed the jury detailed pictures of the needle and of the cotton balls neatly displayed in the opening statement, Hardin showed the jury how McNamee had maintained the evidence strewn about in a bag with beer cans.
“It is the most mixed-up hodgepodge of garbage you could ever imagine,” Hardin told the jury citing his concerns with the chain of custody of how it got to federal agents from McNamee via his attorney.
“It is ludicrous to suggest this is evidence in a criminal case,” Hardin said.
“There is no high level of sophistication to manipulate the evidence,” Hardin told the jury detailing how the defense would demonstrate that McNamee could have manufactured the evidence.
Hardin also showed the jury a chart of all of the government resources the government used in their investigation of Clemens to verify McNamee’s allegations.
“187 witnesses…79 interview locations, 103 law enforcement officials, over whether a baseball player used steroids. Eight assistant U.S. attorneys have touched this case,” Hardin told the jury with a map of the United States and arrows depicting locations and calls the prosecutors and federal agents made.
“There’s not going to be any real corroboration of Brian McNamee,” Hardin said.
Trying to further discredit McNamee, Hardin told the jury that McNamee lied to government agents and to the Mitchell Commission.
“Under his own admission he lied to law enforcement in 2001 as part of a criminal investigation of him in Florida,” Hardin said in reference to a sexual assault case McNamee was involved in, but never charged for.
The stakes are clearly high as tension between the prosecutors and defense team has been demonstrated with numerous arguments over evidence in pretrial hearings and prosecutor Steve Durham raising four objections during Hardin’s opening statement.
The government called Phil Barnett former House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staff director as the first witness. Barnett had questioned Clemens during the Feb. 5, 2008 deposition that he voluntarily agreed to.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
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