- Last Updated: 3:37 AM, April 24, 2012
- Posted: 3:28 AM, April 24, 2012
WASHINGTON — Roger Clemens must feel quite at home here at the U.S. District courthouse, where you can see the Capitol building from the cafeteria. There’s enough bravado displayed, sufficient head games deployed, to fill any major-league clubhouse. The Phony Factor is off the charts.
Clemens prevailed far more often than he lost during his pitching days, and yesterday, as District Judge Reggie Walton swore in 16 jurors to begin the proceedings in earnest, he scored another victory. Before U.S. Assistant Attorney Steven Durham performed a cliché-filled opening argument, Walton significantly limited the testimony that returning Yankee Andy Pettitte can offer.
Pettitte, one of the government’s key witnesses as it tries — for a second time — to bring down Clemens on charges of obstruction of Congress, making a false statement and perjury, can’t divulge that Brian McNamee gave him human growth hormone in 2002. McNamee, the former Yankees assistant strength coach, will testify that he repeatedly purchased illegal performance-enhancing drugs for Clemens and injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner with the drugs.
That’s a win for Clemens, Pettitte and the Yankees, who have developed a greater need for their beloved left-hander in light of poor starts to the season by Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes and Michael Pineda’s recurring right shoulder problem. The Yankees and Pettitte both want the lefty’s involvement in this case to be as brief and forgettable as possible.
Now, Pettitte still could get beat up some by Clemens’ attorneys. Yet his involvement in the case is no longer multilayered. He’s tied only to Clemens, not to McNamee.
McNamee doesn’t quite represent an ideal chief witness for the prosecution. Clemens’ colorful attorney Rusty Hardin tried twice yesterday — failing both times — to get permission to refer to McNamee’s alleged “substance abuse” problem. But Hardin can mention that McNamee lied to St. Petersburg, Fla., police regarding an alleged sexual assault that occurred during a Yankees road trip in 2001; no charges were ever filed.
Pettitte could have bolstered McNamee’s credibility; if McNamee told the truth about Pettitte, then didn’t he do so about Clemens, too? Alas, that’s precisely why Walton will block the prosecution. Guilt by association is frowned upon by our justice system.
Therefore, Pettitte’s testimony will primarily cover two purported conversations he had with Clemens. In the first, in 1999, Clemens allegedly told Pettitte he had taken HGH. And in the second, in 2005, Pettitte says, when he asked Clemens what he would do if asked by the media about this issue, Clemens said he had told Pettitte about the HGH usage of his wife, Debbie, but not by Clemens himself.
Sound fishy? To us, too. Except, when deposed by a Congressional committee in February 2008, Pettitte reflected on that sequence and testified, “I was like, well, obviously I must have misunderstood him.” Pettitte’s memory retention will the primary issue of his testimony.
Relative to that result, the prosecution scored better with the opening argument. Durham laid out a narrative, complete with photos, in which Clemens chose to use illegal PEDs, created myriad cover stories, dodged Mitchell’s investigators and finally lied to Congress. Not bad.
However, attorneys score points with style as well as substance, and Durham’s style matched that of a high school English teacher trying too hard to be liked by the cool kids.
Durham started with the Sir Walter Scott line, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” He proceeded to discuss how Clemens was “an athletic hero” and how Congress was “deeply concerned about the use of these drugs by younger people.” Oy vey. Too bad there were no violins to contribute sad music.
Today will kick off with Hardin’s opening statement. There will probably be even more smoke and mirrors, more nonsense, than in the prosecution’s statement. Hardin will probably connect better with his audience, though.
Other stuff you should know:
* The jury features 10 women and six men; four of those 16 individuals are the alternates.
* Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will testify, Durham said, that during Game 3 of the 1999 American League Championship Series — when the Red Sox knocked out Clemens in the third inning — Clemens told Cashman, “I need McNamee. Get McNamee here.” The Yankees let McNamee join their staff for the 2000 season.
* Convicted illegal PED peddler Kirk Radomski, the former Mets clubhouse attendant, will testify he mailed illegal PEDs to Clemens’ house in Houston, in McNamee’s name, Durham said.
* If Hardin challenges Congress’ right to hold hearings on illegal PED usage, Walton said, the government can counter by introducing evidence of how widespread the usage had become. That could include Pettitte’s connection with McNamee. So Hardin won’t go there.Follow @NYPostsports