Andy Pettitte leaves the federal courthouse in Washington on Wednesday… (Haraz N. Ghanbari / Associated…)
New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte threw the prosecution of his friend Roger Clemens into disarray Wednesday when he testified that he could have misunderstood a conversation he had with Clemens about human growth hormone.
Pettitte said he thought Clemens told him some time in 1999 or 2000 that he used HGH, but he admitted under cross-examination that he was hazy on the details.
Is it possible, asked Clemens lawyer Mike Attanasio, that Pettitte misunderstood the critical conversation?
"I could have," was Pettitte’s reply.
Attanasio then asked Pettitte if he only had 50-50 confidence in his memory.
"That’s fair," he said.
Clemens has long maintained that Pettitte must have misremembered the conversation.
Pettitte, a close friend and longtime teammate of Clemens, was the only person expected to testify that Clemens used human growth hormone apart from Roger McNamee, a former strength trainer who claims he administered the drugs and saved needles with Clemens’ DNA.
In admitting doubt about the conversation, which took place over a decade ago, Pettitte has left the prosecution’s case badly weakened, said Joseph diGenova, a former prosecutor in Washington.
"He’s basically their key witness, because he would have, quote, 'no reason to lie'," DiGenova said. "This has always been a difficult case — I think this is pretty much it, I think Pettitte was their last key witness."
Clemens was charged with perjury, making false statements and obstruction of Congress after he told a House of Representatives committee in 2008 that he had never used HGH or steroids. The Mitchell Report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball named Clemens as one of 89 players who had used the substances.
But much of the evidence for the report came from McNamee, and in opening statements, Rusty Hardin, Clemens’ chief lawyer, signaled that he would strike right at the heart of McNamee’s credibility, going so far as challenging the DNA evidence he provided.
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