WASHINGTON - Using steroids was “a total anathema’’ to everything Roger Clemens stood for as one of baseball’s best pitchers, Clemens’s lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told jurors in federal court Tuesday.
Clemens was just a pudgy, tall kid from Texas whose work ethic and talent were all he needed to succeed, Hardin said in his opening argument, before begging jurors to realize the government’s case is “tragically wrong.’’
“Our government should never punish someone for trying to clear his name, and our government should never prosecute someone for saying, ‘I didn’t do it,’ ’’ Hardin said in a low voice.
“What guy, the evidence will scream out, would go to Congress and lie under oath, knowing what the consequences would be if he hadn’t done it?’’ he said. “What man, except a crazy man, does that?’’
Not Clemens, of course, Hardin said in his Southern drawl as the jurors - 10 women and six men, including four alternates - looked on.
Clemens, Hardin said, is not a man who betrayed his sport and his friends by lying to Congress in 2008 about his performance-enhancing drug use, then told lies and “other lies to cover up his lies,’’ as the government alleges. And he is not a player who needed to obtain drugs from his former trainer, Brian McNamee, to enhance his pitching, Hardin said.
Hardin attacked the credibility of McNamee as a witness, saying he is simply a fame-hungry man out to gain celebrity by bringing down Clemens. He showed a mock-up cover of an autobiography McNamee wanted to publish.
“We’re not going to talk bad about anybody but Brian McNamee,’’ Hardin said, adding that the defense would welcome the testimony from another star government witness, New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.
Pettitte is expected to testify that Clemens told him in 1999 that he used human growth hormone, and that Pettitte had used the drug himself. His testimony is likely to be very powerful because Pettitte, known for his honesty and loyalty, was once close friends with Clemens.
Hardin claimed that Clemens and Pettitte were still close.
“At the end of the day, we believe that Andy Pettitte’s testimony will be one of the most convincing of all, as to why Roger Clemens did not use HGH,’’ he said.