WASHINGTON — Prosecutors finally have some momentum in their perjury case against Roger Clemens, even if it means dragging in former major leaguer David Segui, a witness who is apparently so reluctant to testify that the judge threatened from the bench: “If he doesn’t show up, he’ll be arrested like anyone else.”
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton indicated Wednesday he was leaning heavily toward allowing prosecutors to call Segui and another witness to counter an overall impression left by Clemens’ lawyers during the 6-week-old trial. Segui is expected to say that sometime around 2001 he was told by Clemens’ strength coach, Brian McNamee, that McNamee had saved evidence from injections of players to placate a nagging wife.
That would be consistent with McNamee’s testimony last week — that he kept waste from an alleged steroids injection of Clemens in 2001 and stored it in a beer can to soothe things over at home. McNamee’s wife, according to McNamee, was concerned that he would become the fall guy if his involvement with drugs-in-baseball were ever exposed.
But there’s a catch. Prosecutor Courtney Saleski said Segui, who retired in 2004 after 15 major league seasons, “doesn’t want to come” even though he’s under subpoena.
Judge Walton’s response: “You just tell him if he’s under subpoena, he’d better be here.” Or else, added the judge, “he’d better be on the run because the marshals will be after him.”
Clemens is accused of lying to Congress in 2008 when he said he had never used steroids or human growth hormone, and a trial that appeared to be going so well for the seven-time Cy Young Award winner has this week thrown him a few curveballs. When Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin shared a laugh with the judge while fighting an uphill battle against Segui’s testimony — “I don’t want to beat a dead horse,” Hardin said — Clemens sat at the defense table and didn’t so much as crack a smile.
Essentially, Hardin is paying the price for his three days of aggressive cross-examination of McNamee, who says he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000. On Monday, the judge ruled that Hardin had opened the door for McNamee to name other players to whom he had supplied HGH, something the defense had fought vigorously to keep from the jury.
Now the government — and the judge appears to agree — says that Hardin went too far in trying to build a case that McNamee started making up charges and fabricating evidence against Clemens around 2007 as a way to appease federal agents.
Walton said the jury is left with the impression that “because the government had made these allegations, that he started to give them what they wanted to stay out of harm’s way and avoid going to prison.”
Segui and Anthony Corso, who was one of McNamee’s private workout clients in New York City, could refute that. Corso is expected to testify that he was told by McNamee as early as 2002 that Clemens used HGH and that in 2005 he was told by McNamee about the saved evidence from the 2001 injection.
With the jury out of the courtroom, Hardin tried to argue that the defense has never contended that McNamee made up the beer can evidence recently. Hardin told the judge that McNamee created it to save as a “hole card” as a way to possibly extort money from Clemens one day.
Walton said there was no evidence to support Hardin’s contention. The judge added: “If what you’re saying is true, then why did you beat on him so much about his desire to appease the government?”
The judge went even further, wondering why McNamee would have fabricated evidence in 2001: “There’s no indication that Mr. Clemens did something to him back then that would cause (McNamee) to have a vendetta against Mr. Clemens.”
Walton said he would make a definitive ruling on Segui and Corso on Thursday, but he said nothing to indicate that the Clemens team had swayed his thinking.
The only witness during a shortened trial session on Wednesday was Gene Monahan, the longtime head athletic trainer of the New York Yankees. The prosecution used Monahan to try to make its case in some of its lesser charges against Clemens.
One charge is the Clemens obstructed Congress when he said in a deposition that “four or five needles” of the vitamin B12 would be “already lined up ready to go” in the trainers’ room after games.
Monahan said the Yankees never did anything of the sort with B12. He did create an interesting mental picture when he told the jury he would sometimes order “team gargles” — players lining up to gargle medicine to fight off a rash of head colds.
Monahan praised Clemens’ work ethic and leadership skills with younger players.
“He was mother duck and there were other ducklings” who would try to emulate the pitcher’s demanding fitness routines, Monahan said. He said he never saw any evidence that Clemens was using performance-enhancing drugs.
The government still has up to six witnesses left to call, and the trial’s length is causing all sorts of sacrifices. The judge conceded Wednesday that he’ll probably have to cancel most of a planned trip to New Orleans in June because the case won’t be settled by then.
“You all are going to deny me the opportunity to have some good gumbo,” he said.