Jury Selection Begins In Clemens Perjury Retrial; Cashman Among Potential Witnesses
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WASHINGTON (WFAN/AP) — Take two.
The Justice Department, embarrassed by blundering into a mistrial of ex-Yankees star Roger Clemens last year, has added more prosecutors as it tries again to convict the famed pitcher of lying to Congress when he said he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
First things first: jury selection in the new trial.
A number of big-name witnesses may be called by the prosecution — including Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Prosecutors said they may also call on Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and current baseball commissioner Bud Selig. The defense said it might call former Clemens teammates Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada and Mike Stanton, and baseball writer Peter Gammons.
Those were among the more than 100 potential witnesses read Monday on the first day of jury selection in Clemens’ retrial.
The legendary former pitcher, who famously reveled in staring down hitters, will face a prosecution lineup of five lawyers — more than double the two from the first trial. In court, Clemens, wearing a gray suit, stood to acknowledge the jurors.
Last July, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial on only the second day of testimony, after prosecutors showed jurors evidence that had been ruled inadmissible. Walton also will preside over the new trial, which is expected to last four weeks to six weeks.
“I’ll watch, and if either side goes too far, I’ll give a strong admonition,” Walton said during a pretrial hearing Friday.
On Monday, Walton posed 86 screening questions to the 90 prospective jurors, including, “Do you have any opinions about Major League Baseball — good, bad or whatever.” He also asked them if they had any thoughts on Congress’ investigating steroid use in sports.
Clemens swiveled his chair to look at the potential jurors during the questions. Later, during a recess, he flipped through some papers, writing notes occasionally.
The Clemens team won’t be outgunned. It has six lawyers working on the case, led by Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin, whose Rusty Hardin & Associates has represented sports stars such as quarterback Warren Moon, baseball star Wade Boggs and NBA great Scottie Pippen, each a Hall of Famer.
Both Hardin and the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment, citing Walton’s gag order.
Michael McCann, a law professor and director of the sports law institute at Vermont Law School, said it was unusual to have so many prosecutors “for a perjury case that isn’t terribly complicated.”
Prosecutors know that some potential jurors might object to spending too much money on the case because Walton advised them last year that some of the original jurors thought it was would be a waste of money to retry Clemens.
McCann said the department has extra motivation to convict Clemens, given the amount of money spent on the case and the underwhelming outcome of its more-than-seven-year investigation of Barry Bonds over steroids.
Bonds, baseball’s career home run leader, was found guilty last year on just one count, obstruction of justice, for giving an evasive answer to a grand jury when asked about drug use. He received a sentence of 30 days confinement at his estate in Beverly Hills. Prosecutors dropped three other counts charging Bonds with making false statements after the jury deadlocked on those charges. Bonds has appealed his conviction.
“For the government to lose this case after obtaining a very mild victory against Bonds,” McCann said, “would invite a lot of questions about the appropriateness of these prosecutions.”
In addition, the Justice Department recently closed, without bringing any charges, an expensive two-year, multi-continent investigation of possible drug use by Lance Armstrong, the cyclist who beat cancer and won the Tour de France seven straight times.
The essence of the Clemens case remains the same: The seven-time Cy Young Award winner is charged with perjury, false statements and obstruction of Congress for telling a House committee under oath, in both a public hearing and in a deposition with committee staff, that he hadn’t used steroids or human growth hormone during his 24-season career.
The key witness for the government will be Clemens’ former strength trainer, Brian McNamee, who says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone, and even kept the used needles that will be entered as scientific evidence at trial.
Clemens’ lawyers will seek to discredit McNamee, who provided drugs to several professional baseball players and has acknowledged he hasn’t always told the truth about Clemens’ drug use and other matters. McNamee initially denied giving Clemens drugs, before admitting to federal agents he injected the pitcher. The defense team has said that the trainer fabricated the evidence.
Harder to discredit will be another prosecution witness, Andy Pettitte, a former Clemens teammate who recently came out of retirement to mount a comeback attempt with the Yankees. Pettitte says that Clemens, in a private conversation in 1999 or 2000, acknowledged using HGH. Clemens has said Pettitte “misremembers” their conversation.
If convicted on all six charges, Clemens faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. Maximum penalties are unlikely because Clemens doesn’t have a criminal record, but Walton made plain at the first trial that Clemens was at risk of going to jail.
Under U.S. sentencing guidelines, Clemens probably would face up to 15 months to 21 months in prison.
How do you think the retrial will shake out? Be heard in the comments below…
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