Roger Clemens has nobody but himself to blame for charges against him that he lied to Congress when he denied having taken performance-enhancing drugs, a federal prosecutor told jurors Monday during opening statements of the star pitcher’s retrial.
“He had a choice between telling the truth and admitting some mistakes along the way — or lying,” Steven Durham, a federal prosecutor, said in U.S. District Court in D.C.
“The evidence will show that he made his choice. And his choice was that he was going to say things he knew were not true. . . . He built a tangled web of deceit, betrayal and hurt.”
Clemens, wearing a dark pinstripe suit and silver tie, took notes on a legal pad and showed no emotion as Durham attributed the pitcher’s downfall to one of “vanity and ego and pride.”
Clemens’s lawyers say the seven-time Cy Young winner never took steroids and deny that he lied to Congress during a nationally televised hearing. They claim the House proceedings were nothing more than a “show trial.” They are expected to begin their opening statement on Tuesday morning.
It was the second time in less than a year that Durham has addressed jurors in a trial of Clemens, baseball’s most decorated pitcher. The 49-year-old Houston resident, who retired from baseball in 2007, is charged with perjury, obstruction of Congress and making false statements. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Clemens’s first trial ended after just two days of testimony in July when Durham and other prosecutors in the District’s U.S. Attorney’s Office introduced banned evidence, at which point U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton declared a mistrial.
Unlike the first go-around, which attracted baseball fans and tourists, the do-over was met with a shrug; the courtroom was packed but mostly with curious prosecutors, defense lawyers and clerks.
On Monday, Durham alleged that Clemens lied to a House of Representatives committee in 2008 when he denied ever having taken performance-enhancing drugs. The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform convened the hearing after a report by former Sen. George Mitchell that examined the prevalence of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Mitchell alleged in the report that Clemens used anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH), but he was not able to speak to Clemens before issuing the report.
Clemens, who pitched for the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros, testified before the committee that he never took the substances. The drugs help increase strength and allow athletes to recover more quickly from workouts and injuries. Major League Baseball explicitly banned steroids in 1991 and HGH in 2005.
Federal prosecutors say that Clemens took the substances on “multiple” occasions in 1998, 2000 and 2001. In dramatic fashion, Durham flashed photographs of Clemens hanging out with two of his closest friends during a workout session in a gym. The friends were Andy Pettitte, a fellow star pitcher and then a teammate, and Brian McNamee, their strength coach.
Durham said that McNamee, a key witness, will testify that he injected Clemens with steroids. The prosecutor even displayed a photograph of a needle and three bloody cotton swabs that McNamee said he used to inject Clemens with steroids. McNamee says he kept the items because he wanted to protect himself in case Clemens ever got in trouble for taking the drugs and turned on him. Authorities later found Clemens’s DNA on the syringe and cotton balls, as well as traces of steroids, Durham said.