Jury selection nears for Clemens trial in DC

Jury selection for Clemens trial begins Wednesday in DC

Jury selection nears for Clemens trial in DC
WASHINGTON -- For the second time this year, one of baseball's biggest superstars of the last quarter-century will be at a defendant's table in a federal courtroom, accused of lying about using performance-enhancing drugs.

Starting with jury selection that will commence Wednesday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the federal case against Roger Clemens will put a 300-game winner and 11-time All-Star on trial, charged with perjury, giving false statements and obstruction of Congress.

Clemens' trial begins less than three months after Barry Bonds, the Majors' all-time leader in home runs for a single season and a career, was convicted on one charge of obstruction of justice in a federal courthouse in San Francisco, while three charges of making false declarations ended in mistrial. An August hearing is still scheduled in that case, with defense arguing to vacate the conviction and the government considering retrying the hung verdicts.

The Clemens case, which has been subject of contentious legal wrangling over the last several years, is only now beginning in earnest.

There are two main differences between the trials of the two superstars who 10 years ago this week were preparing to start in the 2001 All-Star Game, Clemens as the American League's starting pitcher and Bonds as the No. 3 hitter in the middle of the National League lineup.

The differences: The venue for the alleged lying, and the trainer involved in the case.

Clemens, who won a record seven Cy Young Awards in his 23-year career with the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros, is accused of lying to the U.S. Congress on Feb. 13, 2008, stating flatly that he had never used performance enhancers, as had been alleged in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

"Let me be clear -- I have never taken steroids or HGH," Clemens said in a nationally televised hearing before the House Committee on Government Reform. Meanwhile, Bonds' statements denying use of PEDs were made in grand jury proceedings that were supposed to be secret before they were illegally leaked.

The key government witness in the Clemens case -- officially named United States of America vs. William R. Clemens -- is trainer Brian McNamee, who also testified before Congress in 2008. There, McNamee told a different story of Clemens, one that included longtime use of performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, on the other hand, served three months in prison and three more of house arrest for distributing steroids, and then served more than a year on contempt charges for refusing to testify in any of the Bonds proceedings.

What has become a much more contentious trainer-athlete relationship will be pivotal to the Clemens case. Before Congress, McNamee asserted that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone -- keeping medical waste that will be used as evidence in the trial. McNamee also claimed and Clemens denied that the pitcher discussed steroids at a party with then-Toronto Blue Jays teammate and noted steroids user Jose Canseco.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton will preside over the Clemens trial, which is being held in the nation's capital because that's where the alleged crimes took place. The trial is estimated to last four to six weeks, with jury selection expected to take up the abbreviated first week and opening arguments to follow, possibly Monday, depending on the length of the jury selection process.

Clemens' attorneys argued last week to expand their questioning of McNamee to include an allegation of sexual assault against him in 2001, while he was working with the Yankees. But Walton indicated in a motions hearing Tuesday that he would not allow that line of questioning to come into the trial.

Still, it's clear the defense will go after McNamee with vigor. Defense attorney Rusty Hardin said in a recent hearing, "If Mr. McNamee's mouth is moving, he's making an inconsistent statement."

Prosecutors planned to call as witnesses several former Major Leaguers, most notably former Yankees and Astros left-hander Andy Pettitte. Chuck Knoblauch, Mike Stanton and Pettitte were expected to admit to receiving PEDs from McNamee, but Judge Reggie Walton indicated Tuesday that he would not allow the former players to testify about their own dealings with McNamee. However, Pettitte remains the only witness besides McNamee who says he spoke with Clemens about his drug use; Clemens has said Pettitte must have misheard him.

Clemens is charged with six felony counts regarding 15 statements he made during his testimony before Congress and in a deposition beforehand. The maximum penalty if found guilty on all the charges would be 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine, although such penalties would be unlikely given that Clemens has no criminal record. Previous federal cases involving athletes lying about their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs have brought penalties of house arrest.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.