WASHINGTON - It took 24 witnesses over 19 days of testimony for prosecutors to make their case against Roger Clemens, with three jurors and two minor pieces of the indictment dismissed by the time they were done. With the overlong-running trial now in its seventh week and Clemens’s lawyers starting to take their turn, the case remains centered on the credibility of one person - Brian McNamee.
The government rested Tuesday in the perjury trial of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, wrapping up with a witness from Wall Street and two from the FBI. Two invoked the name of McNamee, the longtime Clemens strength coach who says he injected the ex-pitcher with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with human growth hormone in 2000.
The defense is expected to take about two weeks to call its witnesses. The trial has already exceeded the estimate of 4-6 weeks stated by the judge at the start of jury selection.
Clemens is charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of Congress. All relate to his testimony at a hearing in February 2008 and his deposition that preceded it.
The heart of the case is the allegation that Clemens lied when he said he had never used steroids or HGH, but the obstruction count included 15 statements, or “acts,’’ in which Clemens is alleged to have misled Congress on a variety of issues. US District Judge Reggie Walton dismissed two of those acts Tuesday.
One of the government’s final witnesses was Anthony Corso, one of McNamee’s so-called “Wall Street clients’’ who worked out with the strength coach in Manhattan. Corso related a pair of conversations meant to show that McNamee didn’t start making up allegations and fabricating evidence against Clemens to placate federal investigators in 2007.
“Mr. McNamee had mentioned that Mr. Clemens was one of the athletes that was getting positive results from’’ HGH, said Corso, recalling a conversation from around 2002.
A key piece of evidence in the trial is medical waste from an alleged 2001 steroids injection of Clemens that McNamee said he saved in a beer can and FedEx box.
Corso, who works as a managing partner in a consulting firm, recalled asking McNamee around 2005 about a newspaper story concerning performance-enhancing drugs.
“’I’m not going to get thrown under the bus because I’ve taken care of it,’’’ Corso remembered McNamee saying. “He said he had saved some syringes and thrown them in a beer can, and thrown them in a FedEx box.’’
Corso didn’t directly link Clemens to that statement, a fact reinforced by a question from a juror. That forced the government to start reading Corso’s grand jury testimony from two years ago, when Corso quoted McNamee as saying, “I saved two syringes that I used on Roger.’’ Corso said he now can’t recall whether McNamee used Clemens’s name in connection with the syringes.