Clemens, 48, is accused of committing perjury and related offenses in 2008 when he denied taking steroids and human growth hormone in testimony before a congressional committee. A conviction is hardly assured, but the trial — with a cast of larger-than-life figures who have fallen from grace — may offer legal drama worthy of Shakespeare.
The central figure is Clemens, a living legend who won an unprecedented seven Cy Young awards during his 23-year career with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros.
“What if arguably the greatest pitcher of the last half-century does jail time?” said Bob Costas, an NBC and MLB Network host. “That would reverberate for a while.”
Once destined for the Hall of Fame, Clemens faces serious prison time if convicted of perjury, obstruction of Congress and making false statements during a trial expected to last at least a month.
Clemens’s chief accuser is his one-time friend and trainer, Brian McNamee, a man with credibility problems that are certain to be highlighted by Clemens’s legal team.
Jose Canseco, a former slugger who detailed his own steroid abuse in a 2005 book, “Juiced,” could testify. So may former Yankee Chuck Knoblauch, who has admitted his own use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Andy Pettitte, a three-time American League all-star and former Clemens teammate, is almost guaranteed to take the stand. He has admitted using HGH during his career and is expected to testify that Clemens had confided in him that he had also done so.
In recent days, prosecutors have filed court papers indicating they plan to introduce evidence including syringes used by McNamee to inject Clemens and DNA analysis linking the pitcher to the needles, which were kept by the trainer in a beer can and an express shipping box.
Still, former federal prosecutors say such evidence doesn’t necessarily ensure an ironclad case, especially since perjury is one of the most difficult charges to prove at trial.
“This case is hardly a slam dunk,” said Andrew White, a former federal prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer who has handled such cases, pointing to the high-profile trial of former baseball superstar Barry Bonds, which ended ambiguously in April.
Bonds, perhaps the game’s greatest slugger, went on trial for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury about his use of steroids while playing for the San Francisco Giants. The 14-time all-star was convicted of only one count, obstruction of justice, that had nothing to do with his use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the jury was hung on all other charges.