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Roger Clemens' lawyer lands blows but doesn't KO Brian McNamee

Attorney Rusty Hardin aggressively questions McNamee, the key government witness in former pitcher Clemens' perjury trial, but misses the 'home run' that might undermine former trainer's credibility.

May 17, 2012|By Ian Duncan
  • Former major league pitcher Roger Clemens leaves federal court in Washington on Thursday.
Former major league pitcher Roger Clemens leaves federal court in Washington… (Haraz N. Ghanbari / Associated…)

WASHINGTON — Rusty Hardin, lead attorney for Roger Clemens, got the former pitcher's chief accuser to admit to a series of lies in a day of aggressive cross examination, but did not undermine his credibility with a single grand stroke.

Clemens is on trial for perjury, accused of lying to Congress about his use of performance enhancing drugs.

Brian McNamee, a former trainer who worked closely with Clemens, admitted that in 2007 he lied to federal agent Jeff Novitzky and the Mitchell Commission, which was investigating performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

McNamee testified that he told them he did not have any physical evidence of Clemens' steroid use, but in early 2008 he produced a syringe, needle, bloodied gauze and other items he said tied Clemens to steroids.

"I guess I lied twice," McNamee said — once to the commission and once to the agents.

Hardin asked how the investigators reacted when they met with McNamee to take custody of the evidence. "They're pretty upset about it, aren't they?" the attorney asked.

"Yes, for five or so minutes they were visibly upset with me," McNamee replied.

McNamee's credibility is critical to the government's case. He is the only witness claiming direct knowledge of Clemens' use of steroids and human growth hormone. He also provided much of the evidence to the Mitchell Commission, which triggered the congressional hearings where the government alleges Clemens lied.

Through his questioning, Hardin dragged McNamee all over the 12-year timeline of the case, jumping between episodes, and at points the former trainer seemed confused or exhausted.

"I'm just trying to keep up, man," he said after one series of questions about a 2006 article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

McNamee admitted he lied to Clemens' representatives after the article was published. The Times article said Clemens and McNamee were named in a federal affidavit as connected to steroids, but McNamee said in a January 2007 email to Clemens' agent that Novitzky had personally confirmed that he was not named. McNamee did not have any contact with Novitzky until later that year.

"That was a lie," he testified Thursday. "It was self-preservation."

In an email shown to jurors, McNamee asked the agent if he knew a lawyer who could help him sue The Times over the article. Hardin suggested suing the paper would have been "disastrous" for McNamee.

When court documents were later unsealed, Clemens was not named and The Times printed a correction.

Despite denting McNamee on some points — he admitted changing the number of times he said he injected Clemens, for example — Hardin was unable to undermine the former trainer's central claim that he did inject the pitcher with steroids and HGH.

A number of times, Hardin seemed to be building toward an attack that might fundamentally damage McNamee's credibility. He worked particularly hard to pin down McNamee on the times and places he says he injected Clemens, suggesting the defense might have some sort of alibi for the pitcher.

And toward the end of the day, Hardin began picking at the physical evidence McNamee provided. McNamee said he put used needles for steroid and HGH injections in a beer can in 2001 at Clemens' apartment. That would seem to contradict McNamee's claim that he injected Clemens with HGH only in 2000, but Hardin did not have time to ask many detailed questions about the evidence before the court recessed for the day.

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