A lawyer for Roger Clemens today tried to undermine the credibility of the government's chief witness, suggesting it was implausible that a professional baseball star would seek the help of a relative stranger to acquire and inject steroids just weeks after the two first met.
The witness, Brian McNamee, who told jurors this week that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone, said he assumed Clemens wanted a performance enhancing substance when he said, for the first time, he wanted help with a “booty shot” in June 1998. Clemens and McNamee were first introduced earlier that year.
McNamee said on cross-examination at Clemens’s perjury trial in Washington today that he had no “hard evidence” Clemens had used steroids prior to him asking for that shot during a Toronto Blue Jays road trip in Florida. Rusty Hardin Jr., Clemens's lead attorney, hammered McNamee over his memory of the trip.
McNamee’s truthfulness is crucial for the government, which contends Clemens lied to Congress in Feb. 2008 when he denied, at a hearing, ever using steroids during his professional baseball career. “[W]hether or not Roger Clemens used steroids depends upon when you are telling us the truth,” Hardin told McNamee. Responding to questions from Hardin, McNamee said today his memory has evolved over the years.
The cross-examination of McNamee began for about 10 minutes yesterday afternoon following two days of direct examination. Hardin on Tuesday afternoon showed jurors two photos of McNamee in an attempt to portray him as a fame-seeking opportunist who sought to capitalize on his association with, and accusations against, Clemens.
Hardin questioned McNamee about a book agreement, a television appearance on the Howard Stern show and the sale of memorabilia. McNamee, for instance, appeared at a grand jury in Washington wearing a tie that featured the name of a nutrition company he was promoting. On Stern's show, McNamee wore a shirt featuring the name of a sports website with which he was involved.
In another exchange today, Hardin questioned the accuracy of McNamee’s memory, saying he recalls small details from 1998 from a baseball clubhouse but cannot remember other, more timely things. “You have to have me show you the cover of your book to know what’s on it?” Hardin asked. “What do you remember being on the cover of this book?” (The book was never published.)
Thirty minutes after the start of cross-examination today, Hardin created a chart to document statements McNamee has made over the years about Clemens and drugs. Hardin had three categories in which the statements were placed: mistake, bad memory or a lie.
“In your mind what is a lie?” Hardin asked McNamee. “Something that’s not true,” McNamee said.
McNamee and Hardin battled for much of the morning over when he first learned that Clemens expressed interest in steroids. Clemens's alleged phrase “booty shot” was used over and over.
McNamee said he automatically thought "steroids" when Clemens first used that phrase. “I knew what he meant. I just did,” McNamee said. “It is what it is.” McNamee said later: “He got what he wanted.”
Hardin made his big point later in the morning — that McNamee’s testimony, if it is trustworthy, suggests that Clemens used steroids or human growth hormone only three years in a career that lasted more than two decades. Clemens's lawyer set up the argument that Clemens should have continued using to prolong his career. Clemens retired in 2007.
McNamee said he never injected Clemens after 2001, and prosecutors said today the government has no evidence that Clemens used performance enhancing drugs after that year. The government declined to stipulate to that point.
Hardin also explored McNamee’s qualifications when it came to working with Clemens as a strength coach. He suggested McNamee was extremely valuable to any pitcher, trying to show that Clemens kept working with him after 2001 to dispel any notion that Clemens only wanted McNamee around for drugs.
Before the jury entered the courtroom today, Clemens’s defense lawyers and prosecutors, including assistant U.S. attorney Steven Durham, a top public corruption prosecutor in Washington, fired off accusations against the other side about the scope of evidence.
Durham and Cooley partner Michael Attanasio, representing Clemens, quarreled over whether prosecutors had unfairly redacted information from an email.
Attanasio questioned whether McNamee, on the stand yesterday, intentionally inferred he was the source of human growth hormone for Andy Pettitte, a witness for the government and a former Clemens teammate. The defense lawyer raised the specter of a mistrial, but he backed off before formally asking for one.
The presiding judge, Reggie Walton, seemed frustrated with all the bickering. “I’m constantly troubled by the accusations that lawyers make against each other when maybe what was done was not done for any ill motive,” he said.