WASHINGTON — While it’s an open question whether jurors think Roger Clemens used performance-enhancing substances, they now know one thing for certain: His wife sure did.
She said it happened on a whim, inspired by a newspaper article with the headline: “Boomers believe they’ve found a fountain of youth in a syringe.” She said it happened in her posh master bathroom, which she described as being “like the size of a kitchen.” She said she pulled up her shirt so that Brian McNamee could pinch her skin and inject her in the belly. She said no one else was there. She said she didn’t even tell her husband it was happening.
In fact, she said her husband was away, even though the reason McNamee would have been staying at the Clemens’ house would have been to train Roger Clemens.
And, she said that when she told her husband about it later on the phone, she didn’t have to tell him what human growth hormone — HGH —was.
“I don’t think he thought it was bad,” she testified. “It wasn’t like doing heroin or something crazy.”
Debbie Clemens was always going to be a risky witness for her husband, and that was the case Friday as the perjury trial of the former pitcher reached the end of its eighth week. The defense is expected to rest Monday, and the jury could perhaps begin deliberations on Tuesday afternoon.
Roger Clemens is charged with lying to Congress in 2008 when he denied using steroids and HGH. He’s also charged with obstructing Congress by telling 13 alleged untruths. Among them: Roger Clemens’ claim that his wife’s injection occurred without his prior knowledge or approval, and his claim that he wasn’t at Toronto Blue Jays teammate Jose Canseco’s Florida house on or about June 9, 1998.
Debbie Clemens contradicted that second statement outright: She said the Clemens family — Roger, Debbie, four sons, Debbie’s brother and a nanny — spent the night at Canseco’s house during the June 8-10 series of games against the Florida Marlins. The only debate is whether they were present for a mid-day pool party, an event McNamee has tied to the first steroids shot he said he gave Clemens a few days later.
“We did not attend a party at Jose Canseco’s house,” Debbie Clemens said.
It appears, therefore, that the best shot that Clemens’ lawyers have at avoiding a guilty verdict on the Canseco statement would be to persuade the judge or jury that it isn’t relevant to the steroids-HGH matter as a whole. Clemens’ lawyer Rusty Hardin has also said throughout the trial that sometimes an untruth should be classified simply as a “mistake.”
As for Debbie Clemens’ HGH shot, that’s something sports fans who’ve followed the case have known about for years, even if some of the details have been in dispute.
But the baseball-ignorant jury had heard the particulars described only once — by McNamee during his five-plus days of testimony when he also described injecting Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, 2000 and 2001. While McNamee and Debbie Clemens gave differing accounts, her testimony might have bolstered his credibility: The jurors now know he was telling the truth when he said he gave her an HGH shot during one of his extended stays at the Clemens’ home in Houston.
McNamee said Roger Clemens was present for the shot. McNamee said he performed it while standing behind Debbie Clemens, reaching around her to inject her near the belly button. He estimated it could have happened anytime from 2002 to 2004. He quoted Debbie Clemens as saying to her husband: “I can’t believe you’re going to let him do this to me,” to which Roger Clemens responded, “He injects me, why can’t he inject you?”
Debbie Clemens said the injection was “spontaneous, a no-brainer moment” that happened when McNamee approached her in the house a couple of days after she read the newspaper article about HGH. She said McNamee was facing her, not standing behind her. She believes the injection occurred in 2000, based on a USA Today article produced by her lawyer, although her husband’s deposition before Congress placed it in 2003.
The government produced a USA Today article on HGH from 2003, but she said that’s not the one she read. As a sidelight, she said the injection wasn’t related to a photo shoot for the 2003 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, in which she posed with her husband.
The obvious question: Why did she let McNamee do this to her — in such an intimate setting — without consulting a doctor or her husband?
“I was totally comfortable,” she said. “I didn’t know there was anything bad about it.”
“I’m not ashamed of taking that shot,” she also said. “I’m embarrassed that it went across the world incorrectly. … I didn’t think this was a bad thing, and I still don’t.”
Debbie Clemens said she had circulation problems while trying to sleep the night after receiving the shot. She described telling her husband about the injection on the phone. She added that Roger Clemens “wasn’t happy with Brian” about it and that her husband didn’t think she was “old enough yet” to need something like HGH.
The jurors wrote some intriguing questions to be asked by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, one of the few judges who solicits juror questions. One wanted to know why McNamee — whose job was to work with Clemens — would have been staying at the Clemens’ house if Roger Clemens wasn’t there.
Debbie Clemens responded that she didn’t monitor McNamee’s movements. She speculated: “Roger could have left that morning, and Brian left that afternoon.”
Another juror asked if she would take HGH now.
“I might. I don’t yet. I don’t know that I’m old enough yet, but this (having to testify) is aging me,” she replied with a laugh.
She often spoke about the Clemens’ privileged lifestyle. “We’re like a corporation,” she said. She referred to having two maids, and that the house has six bedrooms.
She never cracked on the stand, but her tone occasionally got testy. Before Hardin began one series of questioning, he told her: “It’s almost over.”
“Praise God,” she replied.
After she finished testifying, she was allowed to sit in the courtroom for the first time during the trial. At the next break, Roger Clemens motioned her to come to talk to him. They held hands briefly, and she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. She exchanged fist bumps with a member of Clemens’ legal team and later got a hug from Hardin after the trial recessed for the day.