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Roger Clemens 'trapped' by deceit, prosecutors say in perjury retrial

Former star pitcher chose to lie to Congress about his use of steroids and HGH, federal lawyers say in opening statements. Clemens' defense is expected to attack credibility of strength coach.

April 23, 2012|By Ian Duncan
  • Roger Clemens and his wife Debbie arrive at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday for the first day his new perjury and obstruction trial.
Roger Clemens and his wife Debbie arrive at the U.S. District Court in Washington… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON — All-Star pitcher Roger Clemens is tangled in a web of deceit that he made for himself, prosecutors said as they fired their opening salvo in the retrial of his perjury case.

Not only did Clemens lie to Congress about his use of steroids and human growth hormone, Assistant U.S. Atty. Steven Durham told the jury, but he crafted a cover-up story to mislead legislators and protect his own reputation.

Clemens could have chosen to "be a hero" when he testified to the House Committee on Government Oversight and Government Reform and admit his mistakes, Durham said, but instead he chose to lie.

"He became trapped and couldn't get out; that's why we're here," he said.

Clemens was charged with perjury, obstruction of Congress and making false statements after he told the House committee during a 2008 hearing that he had never used steroids or HGH. Clemens said the injections contained vitamin B12 and the painkiller Lidocaine.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner's testimony contradicted the findings of baseball's Mitchell Report, which named Clemens as one of 89 players who had used performance-enhancing drugs.

Lengthy arguments about what evidence each side can use meant Rusty Hardin, Clemens' lead attorney, will have to wait until Tuesday morning to make his opening statement to the jury. But arguments in court Monday hinted at the direction he will take.

Attacking the credibility of Brian McNamee, a strength coach who said he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs, probably will be a core part of the defense's argument.

After the jury left for the day, Hardin asked U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton whether he could refer to allegations that McNamee attempted to rape a woman in Florida in 2001 and lied about it to the police and Clemens.

Hardin said the government had new evidence that shows McNamee asked the security director of the New York Yankees to destroy a cup containing evidence of a date-rape drug allegedly used in the 2001 incident.

McNamee was not charged in the incident. Walton said he wanted to avoid a trial-within-a-trial, but he did not make a final decision on what line of argument Hardin could take in his opening statement.

Clemens, wearing a dark pinstriped suit, a white shirt with a buttoned-down collar and a two-tone white tie, is back in court nine months after the dramatic collapse of his original trial on its second day when prosecutors inadvertently showed inadmissible evidence to the jury.

The government's case will revolve around evidence from McNamee and Clemens' former Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte. Prosecutors will argue Clemens told Pettitte about his use of HGH and present a needle and cotton swabs McNamee saved containing traces of the drug and Clemens' DNA. They will not be allowed to mention that McNamee supplied Pettitte with HGH in 2002, after Walton ruled Monday that could lead to jurors' finding Clemens guilty by association.

The jury of six men and 10 women is expected to hear from the first witnesses Tuesday. But the court will then break in the afternoon until next Monday, while Walton attends to work outside the capital.

ian.duncan@latimes.com

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