WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The judge in the perjury trial of former baseball star Roger Clemens over alleged steroids use cast doubt on Tuesday on whether he will allow teammates to testify about using performance-enhancing drugs.
With the trial set to begin on Wednesday with jury selection, lawyers for Clemens and prosecutors sparred over who could testify about what and also whether the trial would start on time because of a new complication in obtaining evidence.
Judge Reggie Walton said testimony by fellow players including Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton about their deals with Clemens’ trainer Brian McNamee or steroid injections by him does not automatically implicate Clemens.
If prosecutors are allowed to enter that evidence, the jury could infer that if the other players knew what McNamee was injecting them with then Clemens must have too, Walton said.
Clemens would be “unduly prejudiced” as a result, he said.
Walton deferred his final decision until the trial gets under way.
McNamee is expected to be the prosecutors’ star witness as they try to prove that Clemens made false statements, perjured himself and obstructed a congressional inquiry into the use of steroids and human growth hormones by baseball players.
Without testimony from other players, that would likely force prosecutors to rely more heavily on other witnesses such as McNamee himself or Pettitte who said at one point that Clemens talked about using human growth hormones.
Clemens has said Pettitte misremembers the conversation. During his 24-year career, Clemens played with four teams during his career, including the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros.
McNamee has said that Clemens used the two drugs in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, denied using steroids and human growth hormones or lying or misleading Congress. He said that instead he was injected with vitamin B12 and lidocaine, an anesthetic.
Clemens’ lead defense attorney, Rusty Hardin, made it clear on Tuesday that attacking McNamee’s credibility would be a major theme, saying that “physical evidence has been fabricated and manipulated by Mr. McNamee.”
He said McNamee came up with the accusations in part because he faced allegations of sexual assault which meant he could be terminated as a trainer for the New York Yankees.
“He needed a way to keep making a living,” Hardin said.
McNamee has acknowledged he lied to investigators looking into the sexual assault case but he was never charged. He was not retained by the Yankees after 2001.
Walton also expressed doubt that he would permit those details about the 2001 incident to be discussed in court, saying that for now Clemens’ attorneys could only refer to a criminal investigation.
Another wrinkle that could delay the trial emerged on Tuesday when Clemens’ lawyers said they were pursuing an audio recording of his deposition to congressional investigators but were being stonewalled by the recorder for the House of Representatives.
Hardin said he wanted the tape because Clemens’ tone could be relevant to whether he intended to lie to Congress. Walton urged prosecutors and defense lawyers to press again to get the tape.
Editing by Cynthia Osterman