WASHINGTON – Roger Clemens' chief accuser finally took the stand Monday in the former pitcher's perjury trial, a make-or-break moment for the government.
Brian McNamee has said he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Clemens is accused of lying to Congress in 2008 when he denied using those drugs.
McNamee, wearing a tan suit and speaking softly in a thick New York accent, began his testimony with questions that focused on his job history. The case broke for lunch before he got into anything about Clemens.
McNamee, Clemens' former strength coach, says he saved items that he used while injecting Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, including gauze, tissues, syringes, cotton balls and needles. Prosecutors say they have evidence that some of the materials tested positive for the drugs as well as Clemens' DNA.
Clemens' lawyers have said they will contend that the items saved by McNamee have been tainted and contaminated because they were stored so haphazardly. They refer to the collection as a "mixed-up hodgepodge of garbage." Clemens insists that McNamee injected him with vitamin B12 and the anesthetic lidocaine.
McNamee and the jury arrived in the courtroom after Clemens lost his attempt to bring in information from McNamee's divorce. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton granted motions filed by McNamee and his estranged wife's law firm to quash a Clemens subpoena for divorce records. The judge called the subpoena a "fishing expedition."
Walton also rejected a defense motion to strike Andy Pettitte's testimony about a contested conversation a dozen years ago about human growth hormone.
Pettitte, Clemens former teammate, testified two weeks ago that Clemens said he had used HGH — only to say under cross-examination he might have misunderstood their conversation. Walton ruled that because Pettitte had said under questioning from prosecutors that Clemens said he used HGH, it was up to the jury to decide which how much weight to give Pettitte's testimony.
Clemens' team won a few small victories on Monday, over how much of McNamee's checkered past it could present to jurors in an attempt to diminish his credibility. The judge ruled that Clemens' team could bring up evidence of McNamee's alleged alcohol problems, including two convictions for driving under the influence. Walton also said that if the defense had evidence that McNamee had obtained prescription drugs without a prescription, that too could be mentioned.
But the judge said that defense lawyers could not mention that McNamee was investigated for an alleged sexual assault over an incident at a St. Petersburg hotel involving a woman who was found to have a date rape drug in her system. Walton said that the defense could refer to it as a serious criminal investigation. McNamee lied to investigators, and prosecutors have argued that with the exception of the false statements to police, the 2001 incident is inadmissible. Charges were never filed in the case.
Monday was a reunion of sorts for Clemens and his former strength coach. In 2008, when they testified together before a congressional committee, McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH, and Clemens denied it.
Two weeks later, the chairman and ranking member of the committee asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clemens committed perjury at the hearing, and two years after that, Clemens was indicted by a grand jury.