By Del Quentin Wilber and Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
A federal grand jury is investigating whether former pitcher Roger Clemens lied under oath to Congress last year when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
The sources said the grand jury was convened several months ago in response to a referral in February by Congress asking the Justice Department to investigate Clemens's sworn statements in a deposition and his testimony during a hearing Feb. 13.
However, the grand jury probe was described by the sources as a routine part of such an investigation and that no indictment or other public action was imminent.
Clemens told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during the Feb. 13 hearing that he had "never taken steroids or HGH [human growth hormone]" but that he had received injections of vitamin B12 and the painkiller lidocaine from team personnel over the years.
But his statements contradicted the testimony and assertions of other witnesses, including Brian McNamee, a former personal trainer who has been cooperating with federal authorities and who told the House committee he had personally injected Clemens with steroids and HGH at least 38 times between 1998 and 2001, at Clemens's request.
Two weeks after the hearing, the committee, headed by chairman Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and then-ranking minority member Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), formally asked the Justice Department to investigate Clemens. Through a spokesman, Waxman declined to comment yesterday.
An attorney for Clemens, Lanny Breuer, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment. Clemens has filed a defamation suit against McNamee. Another attorney for Clemens, Rusty Hardin, was unavailable to comment because he is in trial, according to a receptionist at his Houston law firm.
Richard Emery, a lawyer for McNamee, said yesterday his client has not been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, but welcomed the opportunity to do so. "Obviously, Brian has been a federal witness in this case and will continue to cooperate fully," Emery said.
The grand jury's involvement was first reported yesterday by ESPN.com.
Multiple news organizations reported that the grand jury has subpoenaed Kirk Radomski, the former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who supplied McNamee with the drugs he allegedly administered to Clemens.
It is also possible pitcher Andy Pettitte, a longtime Clemens teammate and friend, could be called to testify. Pettitte, a free agent who spent last season with the New York Yankees, gave a sworn affidavit to the congressional committee in which he claimed Clemens confessed his HGH use to him 10 years ago. Pressed by committee members during the hearing about Pettitte's claim, Clemens said his friend "misremembered."
Clemens's testimony before Congress came two months after the release of a 311-page report by a Major League Baseball panel headed by former senator George J. Mitchell. The report, which relied on statements from McNamee, alleged that Clemens took steroids and HGH while playing for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Yankees. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner, who pitched for the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros, was one of 91 players named in the report.
Former federal prosecutors said perjury investigations can be difficult because investigators must carefully parse statements and motivations before bringing charges, and must also investigate the allegations that spurred the false statements, they said.
"Perjury prosecutions are not as easy as they may appear to lay people," said David H. Laufman, a former federal prosecutor. Laufman added that he was not surprised that prosecutors have taken so long to potentially assemble a case to present to a grand jury, especially one involving a high-profile client.
"It's reasonable to expect the government is acting in an abundance of due diligence to investigate all the facts and circumstances surrounding" the allegations, he said.
Still, Laufman said, if the allegations are true Clemens may not have left himself much wiggle room when he flatly denied ever taking steroids or human growth hormone. "He basically threw down the gauntlet for the government," he said.
In the past year, baseball has seen the best hitter and best pitcher of the past quarter-century under federal investigation for lying about steroid use. Seven-time most valuable player Barry Bonds was indicted last year for perjury and obstruction of justice, stemming from 2003 grand jury testimony, and his trial is scheduled to begin next month in San Francisco.