WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A lawyer for former baseball ace Roger Clemens derided as a “show trial” on Monday the Capitol Hill hearing during which the onetime pitcher was pressed by lawmakers about performance-enhancing drugs.
At the federal perjury trial of Clemens, attorney Rusty Hardin argued that a report on drug use by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell for Major League Baseball was for a private business investigating its own employees and not a matter for Congress.
Clemens, 49, is being tried for a second time on federal charges of lying to the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2008 about whether he used anabolic steroids and human growth hormone. The panel was investigating drug use in Big League baseball.
Hardin questioned why Clemens was singled out to testify before the committee.
“What we are trying to show ... Is the idea that they brought Roger Clemens up there to testify in a big public forum on the 13th of February (2008) was nothing more than a show trial of Roger Clemens on that day,” Hardin said during the trial in U.S. District Court.
As the trial resumed on Monday, Hardin told Judge Reggie Walton that Clemens was being punished for having “the temerity to continue to say he did not commit a crime. That’s all he did.”
The trial of Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, began last week but recessed on Tuesday so Walton could teach a judicial course. The trial is expected to last about six weeks.
Clemens first went on trial last July, when Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial because prosecutors showed jurors a video clip that included material he had banned from the case unless it was raised by Clemens’ defense team.
Clemens has repeatedly denied use of performance-enhancing drugs in his 24-year career.
The first witness on Tuesday, former Oversight Committee chief of staff Phil Barnett, testified that Clemens had been called because the panel wanted to be sure of the validity of Mitchell’s report because it could be used as the basis for legislation.
PROSECUTORS’ FREQUENT OBJECTIONS
Hardin’s close questioning of Barnett was frequently broken up by objections from prosecutors and by huddles by lawyers and Walton about his line of inquiry.
“I‘m just perplexed where you’re going right now,” Walton told Hardin at one point.
Prosecutors charge that Clemens had covered up his steroid use and say there are needles and swabs that tests have shown contained the elite pitcher’s DNA and performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens defense team has struck back by saying Clemens had never tested positive for steroids during his 24-year career and had relied on hard work for his success.
Clemens faces one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making a false statement and two counts of perjury.
If convicted, he faces a maximum prison term of 30 years, although under federal sentencing guidelines he would most likely get 15 to 21 months.
Clemens played for Boston, Toronto, Houston and the New York Yankees in a career that ran from 1984 to 2007.
Editing by Paul Thomasch and Philip Barbara