WASHINGTON — The judge in the Roger Clemens perjury trial may be on the verge of letting the government show the former pitcher's jury just how widespread steroids and human growth hormone were in the sport. It's a move Clemens' lawyers would like to avoid but may have brought on themselves.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said Monday that if the Clemens defense team continues its attack on a 2008 congressional hearing in which Clemens is alleged to have lied, government prosecutors should be allowed to present a "larger picture" of why the hearing took place.
Walton asked the government to show him the kind of information it wants to present. A prosecutor gave a hint at the end of Monday's session — with the jury out of the room — dropping the names of admitted drug users among major league players, such as Chuck Knoblauch and Jose Canseco. The defense fears this could taint Clemens with guilt-by-association.
Prosecutors said it's a necessary rebuttal to questions raised by Clemens' lawyer about the motive for the hearing.
"They can't have their cake and eat it, too," prosecutor Steven Durham said. "This simply isn't fair."
Clemens is on trial for allegedly lying in a 2008 congressional deposition and hearing when he said he never used steroids or HGH.
Clemens' lawyer Rusty Hardin opened up the possibility of a wider trial into steroid use with his questioning of the government's first witness, Phil Barnett. He was majority staff director for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee when that panel held the 2008 hearing. Barnett said the hearing was a legitimate use of congressional power because it could have led to legislation.
How, Hardin asked in an incredulous tone, could asking Clemens whether he ever discussed HGH with strength coach Brian McNamee possibly lead to legislation?
After the government objected, Walton said he'd allow that line of questioning, but cautioned Hardin that he was opening the door to the wider government case.
That was one of a barrage of no fewer than 16 objections from the government. Walton handled some of them quickly, but on others he either cleared the jury from the room, or put on a sound machine to block jurors from hearing, while he huddled with lawyers from both sides. During one of those breaks, two of the jurors could be seen with their eyes closed.
Prosecutors used Barnett to try to establish that Congress was within its bounds in holding the hearing two months after Clemens was named in a 2007 report to the Commissioner of Baseball on drug use in the sport. The government has maintained that it was important for Congress to learn whether the report was accurate, in part because of concerns about steroids and HGH as a public health issue.
Hardin complained that the congressional hearing was "nothing more than a show trial." Determining whether Clemens was telling the truth when he denied the report's claims, he said, "is not a legitimate role for Congress."
Hardin raised the issue of whether Clemens' testimony at the hearing was truly voluntary — suggesting that Clemens might have been subpoenaed had he not agreed to appear. But Barnett wouldn't concede that the pitcher would have been subpoenaed had he declined the committee's invitation; he said such a move was not automatic.
With Barnett on the stand, the government played portions of Clemens' televised testimony at the February 2008 hearing as well as an audiotape of the deposition that preceded it.
"Let me be clear: I have never used steroids or HGH," Clemens said confidently in the videotape of the hearing.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this report.
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