Updated 5:04 p.m.
At the Roger Clemens perjury trial, the jurors don't have mere memories and statements from witnesses to mull over. They also have physical evidence.
Today at trial in Washington, jurors got to see the needles and cotton balls and glass vials that prosecutors hope will leave a lasting impression with the panel members when they deliberate weeks down the road.
Brian McNamee, Clemens’ former strength coach, provided in 2008 a host of items to a U.S. Internal Revenue Service agent who had investigated the money trail associated with the distribution of steroids by the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, known as Balco.
That agent, Jeff Novitzky, who is now working for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a criminal investigator, resumed his testimony Thursday in Washington’s federal trial court, where Clemens is charged with lying to Congress when he denied ever taking performance enhancing drugs.
Novitzky was polished on the stand, directly looking at jurors when he responded to questions from an assistant U.S. attorney, Steve Durham, and from Clemens’ lead defense lawyer, Rusty Hardin Jr. There was no fidgeting. He readily recalled specific dates.
Novitzky testified last year at the Barry Bonds perjury trial in California. Bonds was convicted on a single count of obstruction of justice regarding a 2003 grand jury investigation of drug use in professional sports.
Central to the prosecution of Clemens, who is charged with crimes that include perjury and obstruction of Congress, is the credibility of McNamee and the integrity of the physical evidence he turned over to Novitzky.
McNamee handed over to Novitzky a crumpled Miller Lite beer can whose contents included cotton balls and a needle. Prosecutors want to link that evidence to Clemens, who has consistently denied taking performance enhancing drugs. Clemens, however, has acknowledged taking B12 injections.
Clemens’ defense lawyers are expected to challenge the chain of custody of the evidence. In his opening statement last week, Hardin denounced the credibility of the items McNamee disclosed to Novitzky. McNamee, Hardin said, stored the stuff for years in his basement.
"It is the most mixed-up hodgepodge garbage you could ever imagine," Hardin told jurors. Hardin promised an expert will testify for Clemens to say it is "ludicrous to ever try to suggest this is evidence of anything in a criminal case."
Jurors today also got to hear about a man named Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets employee who pleaded guilty in 2007 to money laundering charges tied to the distribution of steroids. McNamee bought steroids and human growth hormone from Radomski, Novitzky said today.
On the stand, Novitzky conceded to the description of Radomski as a “dope dealer,” as Hardin put it. Hardin was asking Novitzky questions about McNamee when the trial recessed for lunch about 12:45 p.m. McNamee, prosecutors contend, was Clemens' source for performance enhancing drugs.
Novitzky testified in the afternoon session that he first met McNamee in June 2007. McNamee, the agent said, was told he was not a target of the steroid distribution investigation. Hardin questioned why agents didn't make McNamee a target.
"Because at that period of time we didn't have the evidence against him," Novitzky said. "It was a balancing act at that period in time."
"Has Brian McNamee ever been charged with anything?" Hardin asked. "Not that I know of," Novitzky said. Still, Novitzky said he believed McNamee was distributing steroids.
No criminal charges, Hardin said, have ever arisen from McNamee's distribution of steroids. Hardin suggested through questions that the arrangement between McNamee and the government was rare.
McNamee's cooperation with the government, for instance, required him to speak with former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and his team, which was investigating steroid use in Major League Baseball. Mitchell published a report in 2007 that named Clemens and other ball players as having used performance enhancing drugs.
Throughout the afternoon, over and over, jurors were treated to a battle between a seasoned litigator and a precise, no-frills government agent.
Novitzky and Hardin fought over the phrasing of questions, forcing the defense lawyer to pause and start over. Hardin and Novitzky even quarreled over the use of pronouns and adjectives.