Former Major League baseball trainer Brian McNamee leaves federal court in Washington, Monday after testifying in the Roger Clemens perjury trial.
WASHINGTON — Brian McNamee finally got to name names in front of the jury. Andy Pettitte. Chuck Knoblauch. Mike Stanton. Roger Clemens’ accuser also apologized for the medical condition that caused him to take frequent breaks. He came across as a sympathy figure in the final moments of some 26 hours on the stand, a small counterweight to three days of brutal cross-examination.
The government’s case got a needed boost as it hit the homestretch Monday in the sixth week of the perjury trial that will determine whether Clemens lied to Congress in 2008 when the 11-time All-Star pitcher denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
McNamee, Clemens’ former strength coach, is the only person to claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens using steroids and human growth hormone, and his integrity and credibility were attacked relentlessly last week by Clemens’ lawyer. The government embarked on a rehabilitation job with its key witness during follow-up questioning Monday, then moved on to a beer expert who put a date on the infamous Miller Lite can that became a key piece of evidence and a witness who placed Clemens at a pool party at Jose Canseco’s house in 1998.
Lawyers indicated to the judge that the government might wrap up its case this week. Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin then said he would need seven or eight working days to present the defense’s case. Both sides are working to finish before June 8, when conflicts with U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton’s schedule could cause the trial to go on recess for a month.
Before Monday, McNamee had not been allowed to say that he provided former Clemens teammates Pettitte and Knoblauch with human growth hormone, or that he helped ex-Clemens teammate Mike Stanton obtain HGH from drug dealer Kirk Radomski. The judge had ruled that such information could prejudice the jury against Clemens.
But Hardin’s grueling cross-examination tipped the balance in the other direction, prosecutors argued. Hardin suggested before the jury last week that McNamee had solely or primarily targeted Clemens, and that no one had been charged in connection with McNamee’s accusations, raising the issue of McNamee’s credibility.
Walton therefore ruled that McNamee could name Knoblauch and Stanton as receiving HGH in 2001 when they were with the New York Yankees, and Pettitte in 2002 when he was with the Yankees. The judge instructed the jury that the names could only be used to help establish McNamee’s “credibility as a witness” and cannot be used to “infer Mr. Clemens’ guilt.”
The government took full advantage, with prosecutor Daniel Butler using all three names repeatedly. McNamee said he was present when all three players used their HGH. Pettitte already has testified that he used HGH in 2002, so now the jury knows that McNamee was the source.
Butler also worked in quick time to build all the sympathy he could for McNamee. The jury had heard last week that McNamee has a medical condition that he wanted to keep secret, but now he revealed what it is: He is a Type 1 diabetic who uses an insulin pump, particularly when under stress. He then looked at the jury and apologized for the extra breaks.
McNamee also said “I lost my job, lost my clients” after he and Clemens were cited in the 2007 Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball. McNamee said he was led to believe that the report would not contain names when he began cooperating with its investigators. He cited his lack of work, saying the only athletes he trains now are two college students who don’t pay him.
McNamee also said his marriage is over, in part due to the fallout from the Clemens case. He is going through a contentious divorce, and he said he sees his children only twice a week and that it will be “rocky road” to rebuild his relationship with them.
While the defense got McNamee to acknowledge that parts of his story have changed over time, he has not deviated from the core of his testimony — that he injected Clemens with performance-enhancing substances in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
With McNamee finished after five-plus days on the stand, prosecutors called a Miller-Coors manager to testify about the beer can McNamee says he used to store waste after an alleged steroids injection of Clemens in August 2001. The witness, Anthony Manuele, looking at markings on the bottom of the can, was able to confirm that it would have been on shelves between August 2001 and Nov. 15, 2001 — coinciding with McNamee’s timeframe.
Hardin, on cross-examination, jabbed prosecutors by asking Manuele: “You don’t sell these beer cans to keep needles, do you?”
The judge sustained a government objection, but not before Manuele could answer: “No, sir.”
One of the charges against Clemens is that he obstructed Congress when he stated in a deposition that he “was not at Jose Canseco’s house on or about June 9, 1998.” That’s the date McNamee says he saw Clemens and Toronto Blue Jays teammate Canseco talking to a mysterious third person at a pool party at Canseco’s Florida home, a person McNamee said he felt had a connection to steroids. McNamee said he first injected Clemens with steroids a few days later.
So the government called Alexander Lowrey, who said he was at the party as a starry-eyed 11-year-old boy and posed for photos with both Clemens and Canseco. Prosecutors showed jurors the photos: One shows the boy on the deck of the pool, next to a smiling Clemens standing in the shallow end of the water. The former pitcher’s hair is bleach-blonde, which is how Lowrey, now 25, said he recalled it.
Clemens’ lawyer tried to play with the potentially faulty memory Lowrey might have of a party that happened 14 years ago. Lowrey couldn’t remember some details and said he had to estimate the times he arrived and left, but he said he had a clear memory of meeting the two major leaguers.
Clemens, in his congressional deposition in February 2008, said: “I never was at the party.” Later in the deposition, he said: “I wasn’t here at this — at a party that he had. I could have gone by there after a golf outing. So — but I was not at this party.”