Updated 4:42 p.m.
The chief government witness against Roger Clemens took the witness stand Monday afternoon, starting the most anticipated and controversial testimony in the perjury trial against the former baseball star.
Brian McNamee is a former New York City police officer. He is a former bullpen catcher for the New York Yankees. He is also the lone person to directly accuse Clemens of using steroids.
Several hours into his testimony, McNamee described in detail the first time he claims he injected Clemens with an anabolic steroid, in 1998, when he and Clemens worked with the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team.
“I just wanted to help,” McNamee said, recalling the injection in Clemens' room in Toronto. “I did it because I wanted to help."
As a strength coach, McNamee said it wasn't his job to give injections to ball players. He told jurors that he wish he could turn back time and take it all back. "I made a mistake," he said. McNamee described himself as an "enabler," injecting performance enhancing drugs at the direction of a star player.
On the stand this morning, McNamee paused for several seconds before answering a question from a prosecutor about how he felt working with Clemens on the same team for the first time. “It was great working with the best,” McNamee, who isn't a medical doctor, responded. “Roger was one of the best.”
For the most part, McNamee looked directly at the jurors when he responded to questions. He avoided eye contact with Clemens, who occasionally took notes during the testimony in Washington’s federal trial court.
McNamee’s testimony is critical for the prosecution, led by assistant U.S. attorneys Steven Durham and Daniel Butler. Butler led the questioning of McNamee. Prosecutors must convince jurors that McNamee is telling the truth when he says he injected Clemens with performance enhancing drugs.
Clemens was charged in Aug. 2010 with lying to Congress about his alleged steroid use. The government contends Clemens made false statements at a congressional hearing in 2008 about the veracity of a report documenting alleged drug use in Major League Baseball.
On the stand, before he addressed questions about drugs, McNamee talked about the relationships he developed with players. Prosecutors want to show that Clemens and McNamee were close--more than professional colleagues.
“Me and Roger, it was all business and then it turned into a friendship to a large degree,” McNamee said. McNamee described receiving a $1,000 check from Clemens, unsolicited, during spring training. McNamee said he tried to give it back.
McNamee said his job did not involve giving medication to players. “Did you know what type of injectable medication was given to players?" Butler asked at one point during direct examination. “No, sir,” McNamee responded.
McNamee said his first recollection of performance enhancing drugs started with Clemens in 1998. McNamee testified Clemens once asked him “in passing if I could help him out with a booty shot” of anabolic steroids.
McNamee recalled today that in 1998 he didn't know much about anabolic steroids. He said he made it a point to learn about the drugs because players were asking more and more questions about them. “I knew they were performance enhancing drugs” that players used to get bigger, stronger and faster, McNamee said.
Clemens' lawyers will get a chance to cross-examine McNamee this week. The Clemens defenders have called McNamee a habitual liar.
The prosecution ran into a roadblock when Butler started to ask McNamee about a conversation about performance enhancing drugs that he claimed he overheard between Clemens and Jose Canseco, who was playing for the Toronto Blue Jays at the time.
Rusty Hardin, a lawyer for Clemens, objected, saying that the line of questioning should not be allowed. Walton called the testimony “extremely prejudicial” if jurors cannot distinguish between what Clemens said and what Canseco said. The government withdrew the question.
Butler at one point asked McNamee why he didn’t ask Clemens where he procured steroids. “Don’t ask don’t tell,” McNamee said on the witness stand. “I didn’t want to know.”