WASHINGTON – The Roger Clemens perjury trial at its core pits one man's word against another's. Now the estranged wife of one of them, Clemens' accuser Brian McNamee, is weighing in as a defense witness.
Brian McNamee, the chief prosecution witness against Clemens, had portrayed Eileen McNamee as a shrill wife whose incessant nagging prompted him to save medical waste from an alleged steroids injection of the pitcher in 2001. McNamee told the jury that she was worried he'd be the fall guy if there were a drug investigation and yelled at him, "You're going to go down! You're going to go down! You're going to go down!" McNamee, Clemens' strength coach at the time, said he brought the needle, swab and cotton ball from the injection home and showed it to her to reassure her.
Called to testify by Clemens' lawyers on Wednesday, Eileen McNamee seemed the antithesis of the woman described by her husband. Soft-spoken and calm, she said she didn't even know back then that her husband was injecting players with steroids and human growth hormone, or HGH. In fact, she said, when she found the FedEx box in which McNamee had stored the medical waste and asked him about it, he stiff-armed her.
"He said he was saving things for his protection and said it wasn't any of my concern," Eileen McNamee testified. She added that her husband didn't mention Clemens or anyone else.
While their accounts differ in many ways, they do dovetail in one key respect: McNamee's motive. He testified that his wife "might be right" about him being the fall guy, and he told congressional investigators in 2008 that he saved the material because of a "gut feeling" stemming from not fully trusting Clemens. Defense lawyers have tried to suggest that McNamee fabricated the evidence.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is charged with lying when he told Congress in 2008 that he never used steroids or HGH. Brian McNamee is the only witness to claim firsthand knowledge of the pitcher using those substances.
In testimony that sometimes sounded more like divorce court than criminal court — the couple is undergoing contentious divorce proceedings in New York — Eileen McNamee spun a narrative that could give the jury more pause when evaluating Brian McNamee's credibility.
Another key difference was her insistence that the couple's marriage began to deteriorate because of an incident in Florida in 2001 — and not because of her husband's relationship with Clemens, which McNamee said his wife often complained about. The jury has heard the 2001 incident referred to only as a "serious criminal investigation," but it involved Brian McNamee being questioned about an alleged sexual assault in connection with a woman who was found to have a date rape drug in her system. He was not charged.
Eileen McNamee also said that her husband didn't tell her about his involvement with Clemens and performance-enhancing drugs until shortly before the 2007 Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball was released. The report was the first public mention of McNamee's claim that he injected Clemens.
Eileen McNamee was granted immunity before her testimony because her husband linked her to transactions involving prescription drugs that could, in theory, have led to charges against her.
The government was getting a chance to cross-examine her Thursday and was expected to question her motives because of the parallel divorce proceedings. Earlier in the Clemens trial, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton quipped about divorce court: "Everybody lies in that court."
That was when the judge was in more jovial mood. On Wednesday, his anger was aroused, and he skewered both of Clemens' lawyers in separate outbursts. First, he criticized Michael Attanasio for not being forthcoming to the prosecution about the line of questioning he was planning to use with the defense's DNA expert.
Walton seemed even angrier at Clemens' chief lawyer, Rusty Hardin, during a debate over the nature of Eileen McNamee's testimony.
"I don't know how you all practice law down in Texas ... ," Walton told the Houston-based lawyer.
Hardin bristled and interrupted: "Same as anywhere else."
"Just as you can get mad, I can get mad, too!" Walton snapped. "Don't look at me like you're going to intimidate me, sir!"
Later, Walton and Hardin apologized to each other for the clash.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this report.
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