WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Roger Clemens’ top lawyer on Thursday revealed his likely strategy to fight charges that the pitching ace lied to Congress when he said he had not taken performance-enhancing drugs -- his main accuser is himself a liar.
Brian McNamee, a former trainer for the retired baseball legend, is expected to be a star witness for U.S. prosecutors as they try to prove Clemens lied to congressional investigators and obstructed their probe into whether he took steroids and human growth hormones.
McNamee has been “conning everybody and has been from the beginning,” Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin said at a court hearing. Calling McNamee’s testimony the heart of case against his client, Hardin said the trainer is “still lying to these prosecutors even today.”
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young award winner, has pleaded not guilty to three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury and one count of obstructing Congress. His trial is expected to start July 6.
Hardin revealed his defense strategy during a court hearing in which he sought enforcement of subpoenas to obtain notes from interviews with McNamee by former Senator George Mitchell and his staff who investigated steroid use in sports in 2007.
Mitchell’s report named Clemens and numerous other sports figures for using performance-enhancing drugs. Congress in 2008 subsequently investigated the matter and interviewed Clemens about whether he used steroids and human growth hormones.
Clemens then and now has denied using such drugs. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.
Hardin wants the material from Mitchell and members of his law firm DLA Piper in a potential bid to undermine the credibility of McNamee as well as another former baseball trainer, Kirk Radomski, who sold steroids.
Hardin also accused McNamee of changing his story about whether he had physical evidence that Clemens had taken the drugs to boost his pitching performance.
“If Mr. McNamee’s mouth is moving, he’s making an inconsistent statement,” Hardin said during the hearing.
A lawyer for McNamee declined to comment on the substance of Hardin’s remarks but did question whether they violated a gag order imposed by the judge.
“Rusty Hardin is artful in using the courtroom to violate the spirit of the judge’s gag order by attempting to prejudice potential jurors with false information,” said McNamee’s lawyer Richard Emery. “I will not participate in that subterfuge.”
DLA Piper had asked Judge Reggie Walton to quash the subpoena because it said the notes and memoranda were internal documents as they prepared the report and thus were protected.
But Walton said the defense may be entitled to them because prosecutors and federal agents attended those interviews. He said he will review them privately and then decide whether to give them to the defense team if relevant.
The judge did quash a subpoena from Clemens’ team seeking similar notes and communications from interviews of numerous witnesses by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Investigations.
The case is USA v. William R. Clemens, No. 10-cr-223 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.