A lead congressional investigator in the Roger Clemens case on Monday defended the propriety of the February 2008 hearing at which the former Major League Baseball star denied using performance enhancing drugs during his career.
Phil Barnett, who was the staff director of the House of Representatives oversight committee in 2008, said the highly publicized hearing allowed members of Congress to ask Clemens questions that were not asked in a deposition that some month. Barnett also said the hearing gave Clemens a chance to tell his version of events.
Prosecutors are using Barnett’s testimony to establish the legitimacy of the oversight hearing, which is the centerpiece of the obstruction and perjury prosecution against Clemens. The former pitcher was charged in Washington in 2010 with lying to Congress when he said he did not take drugs during his lengthy and celebrated baseball career.
Clemens has consistently denied taking drugs. His defense attorneys, led by Houston’s Russell “Rusty” Hardin Jr., have criticized the merits of the 2008 congressional hearing, questioning whether it served any credible purpose. The committee, Hardin has said, knew Clemens would deny injecting performance enhancing substances, including human growth hormone. “Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or HGH,” Clemens said at the hearing.
The committee, Barnett said today, was evaluating the accuracy of a report published in 2007 that examined steroid use in baseball. The report, conducted by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, named names. Clemens was identified as having taken drugs.
A truthful statement from Clemens would undermine Mitchell’s report, Barnett said in court.
The public hearing followed a private deposition, conducted by Barnett and Jennifer Safavian, at which Clemens denied using drugs. Clemens acknowledged in the deposition, and at the hearing, injecting B12 for energy.
“I’ve always assumed that it was a good thing to have,” Clemens said at the hearing. Clemens said he never injected himself.
Clemens said his strength coach, Brian McNamee, the government’s chief witness, injected him. Mitchell’s report said Clemens was injected with performance enhancing drugs, not vitamins.
Clemens testified at the oversight hearing that he trusted McNamee. “I had no reason not to trust him,” Clemens said. He followed up with: “I am a trusting person.”
Jurors today also got to hear Clemens describe his relationship with fellow pitching great Andy Pettitte, who is expected to testify that he and Clemens one time discussed the use of human growth hormone. Clemens said at the hearing that Pettitte had not correctly remember the conversation.
Clemens' defense lawyers will question Barnett this afternoon.
Clemens' attorneys today filed court papers attacking the credibility of McNamee, calling him a habitual liar. At issue is whether, and to what extent, the defense lawyers and prosecutors can discuss so-called "bad acts" that involve McNamee.
"Brian McNamee is the only person in the entire world who has ever said that he witnessed Mr. Clemens use steroids or human growth hormone at any time in his storied career," Hardin said in the court papers. "But Mr. McNamee’s past also contains more dirt than a pitcher’s mound."
The Clemens trial judge, Reggie Walton, rejected a request from the press to receive advance notice of upcoming witnesses. The Justice Department opposed the request. Clemens' lawyers did not object.
The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.