By Erik Brady, USA Today
WASHINGTON- Roger Clemens was found not guilty of perjury and related charges Monday as jurors rejected the prosecution's contention that he lied to Congress in 2008 when he testified that he never took performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens had been charged with perjury, making false statements and obstruction of Congress, and could have faced 15 to 21 months imprisonment if convicted of every charge.
The case hinged in large part on whether jurors would believe Clemens, 49, who did not testify in his own defense, or Brian McNamee, a onetime strength and conditioning coach who testified with immunity at trial that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone.
The panel of eight women and four men deliberated for roughly 11 hours in U.S. District Court, including less than four hours over two days last week. The complex trial, which began April 16, was in its 10th week and included 26 days of testimony by 46 witnesses.
Clemens won 354 games and seven Cy Young awards in 24 seasons as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros. He struck out 4,672, third-best of all time. Normally, numbers like that would make him a certain Hall of Fame inductee. But the cloud over his name, even with the jury's acquittal, seems likely to cost him votes.
The Mitchell Report, commissioned by Major League Baseball to investigate the history of performance-enhancing drug use in the sport, contended, via McNamee's testimony, that Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, 2000 and 2001. After the report's release in December 2007, Clemens issued multiple vigorous denials of McNamee's claims.
Clemens testified in a sworn deposition and at a televised hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in February 2008 that he never took steroids or HGH. McNamee testified that he injected Clemens with both and that he saved medical waste from a 2001 steroids injection, which became a central point of contention in the case.
During Clemens' trial, his defense team relentlessly questioned McNamee's credibility. "If his lips are moving about this stuff, he's lying," said defense attorney Michael Attanasio, adding that McNamee "defines reasonable doubt."
Defense attorney Rusty Hardin suggested that McNamee had faked evidence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Courtney Saleski countered: "You'd have to believe Brian McNamee made it his life's work to frame Roger Clemens."
U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial in the original Clemens perjury case last summer when prosecutors introduced evidence that the judge had already ruled inadmissible.
The prospect of this second trial raised a question of whether it was worth the money to try it again. One prospective juror who was dismissed during jury selection in April said: "I don't know if that's the best use of government tax dollars."
McNamee testified that he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000. He said he saved a needle, cotton balls and other waste from an injection in 2001 and kept it in a FedEx box and a Miller Lite beer can. Hardin called that evidence "garbage" and said the government never should have prosecuted the case.
One of the case's key moments came when Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte said under cross-examination that there was a "50-50 chance" he had misheard Clemens during a conversation a dozen or so years ago. Pettitte had testified earlier that he'd heard Clemens say in that conversation that he'd used HGH.
Pettitte pitched for the Yankees Saturday at Nationals Park, only miles from the courthouse. He turned 40 a day earlier and became the first player over 40 to start a game for the Yankees since Clemens five years ago, at age 45.