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Roger Clemens pleads not guilty to six felony counts of lying to Congress about steroid use

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 12:09 AM

Seven-time Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens pleaded not guilty Monday in a federal court three blocks from where prosecutors say he lied to Congress two years ago when he said he never used steroids or performance-enhancing drugs.

In his only words during a 15-minute hearing, Clemens, 48, entered a plea of "Not guilty, your honor" to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton.

Clemens was arraigned on six felony counts, including obstruction of Congress, perjury and making false statements - all stemming from his February 2008 testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Walton set a tentative trial date of April 5 - the first full week of the next baseball season - and released Clemens on his own recognizance after declining a request by prosecutors that he give up his passport.

"I think he's well-known enough that if he tries to leave the country, someone will let us know," Walton said.

Wearing a black sport coat, khaki slacks, ivory shirt and floral-patterned tie, the former pitcher dominated the scene at the landmark D.C. courthouse, even as the case threatened to begin a highly public examination of his legacy and his sport's troubled efforts to respond to a steroids scandal that spread for more than a decade. Clemens's trial date is set for less than a month after career home run leader Barry Bonds is scheduled to face a federal indictment in California for perjury over statements he made to a grand jury denying his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

In Clemens's case, prosecutor Steve Durham told Walton that the government was set to turn over to Clemens's lawyers all grand jury materials acquired over its 18-month investigation as well as FBI interview notes. To begin what both sides called "hundreds and hundreds" of pages of documents, Justice Department lawyers sent a 34-page master index of evidence and 12 computer discs.

Both sides also anticipated a "voluminous" amount of physical evidence that will require lengthy laboratory testing.

"We will be at the mercy of the experts - both sides," to review the test results, said Clemens's lead defense lawyer, Rusty Hardin.

If convicted of all charges, Clemens could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine, although under federal sentencing guidelines, he would probably face no more than 15 to 21 months in prison.

The federal indictment cited former Sen. George J. Mitchell's December 2007 report into steroid use in baseball and the testimony of Brian McNamee, Clemens's longtime friend and personal trainer.

McNamee told Mitchell and the House panel that he injected Clemens as many as 40 times, turning over to federal authorities a collection of syringes, pads and other physical evidence he claimed to have used on Clemens and stored since at least 2001.

Clemens, who pitched in Boston, Toronto, New York and Houston during a 24-year career before retiring in October 2007, has said McNamee lied and another player, friend and teammate Andy Pettitte, was mistaken or "mis-remembered" when he told investigators that Clemens once admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.

Walton has issued a gag order, but that did not keep dozens of fans and curious onlookers from seeking a glimpse of the famous ballplayer at the courthouse.

The big-shouldered Texan arrived about four hours before the hearing, when he was fingerprinted and processed into the federal court system before eating lunch in the courthouse cafeteria.

Sports talk show hosts debated Clemens's plan to appear later Monday at Golf.com's World Amateur Handicap Championship at Myrtle Beach, S.C., where he and his wife are set to play in the five-day tournament.

About 125 people, most of them journalists, fit easily in the court's top-floor, 200-seat ceremonial courtroom where Clemens appeared before the judge. As he left the courthouse through a crush of video and still photographers, Clemens was met with calls by a handful of young men.

One said, "You're my hero," and another asked, "How's your golf game?"

Asked by a reporter what he made of the government's revelations of physical evidence, Clemens said before pulling away in a black Cadillac Escalade for the drive to the airport, "We'll just have to see."

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