By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge Monday chastised Roger Clemens and his former trainer Brian McNamee for coming "precariously close" to violating a gag order for recent comments about the upcoming perjury trial of the former pitching star.
Judge Reggie Walton issued a stern reminder to comply with his August 23, 2010, order that barred public comments by parties involved in the case in which Clemens is accused of lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
"These statements cannot go unaddressed out of concern that the public discussion of this case by these individuals will escalate even further," Walton said in the two-page admonition. The trial begins on July 6.
"Simply put, the court will neither permit this case to be tried in the media nor countenance any conduct that might taint potential jurors," he said.
Clemens last week gave an interview to an ESPN radio show at a celebrity golf tournament in Texas, saying he was not in hiding after being charged and that he had received "a ton of support" from fans.
"I can't say much about it but we're going to get our chance to talk finally," he said. "We've had to take it on the chin a little bit but we'll have our chance to talk."
He said he was not following the trial of another baseball slugger, Barry Bonds, who has been charged with lying to a grand jury in a 2003 investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
Meanwhile, his former trainer and a likely government witness, Brian McNamee, said in an interview with the Boston WEEI sports radio network he was not involved with performance-enhancing drugs when he worked for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998 when Clemens was there.
"I didn't bring it in there. ... I did just what was asked and that's it," McNamee said on the radio program last week. He also said he had not been in contact with Clemens recently.
Clemens, who won the Cy Young Award seven times as his league's best pitcher, pleaded not guilty in federal court in August to three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury and one count of obstructing the Congress.
In February 2008, Clemens denied using steroids and human growth hormone to the staff of the House of Representatives' Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and again during a congressional hearing. He was under oath both times.
The accusations that he used the performance-boosting drugs came from McNamee. Clemens said McNamee fabricated the charges and he was only injected with vitamin B12 in 1998. The indictment said the B12 shots never happened.
(Editing by Eric Beech and Todd Eastham)