Garner discusses steroids in Clemens trial

Garner discusses steroids in Clemens trial

Garner discusses steroids in Clemens trial
WASHINGTON -- As the seventh week of the Roger Clemens federal perjury trial wrapped up Thursday, the defense called five witnesses to the stand: his former manager, an orthopedic surgeon, a cleaning woman, a massage therapist and a forensic photographic technologist.

After all that, attorney Rusty Hardin told Judge Reggie Walton that the defense case is on track to rest as early as next Thursday and almost for certain by the end of next week, which means the case could be sent to the jury sometime the week of June 11, depending on a few other factors.

Most of Thursday's testimony featured Phil Garner, who earned the nickname "Scrap Iron" in parts of 16 years in the Majors and was Clemens' manager with the Astros in 2004-06. His testimony included some frank discussion about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, and -- as has been the case with most of the first 10 witnesses called by the defense -- a lot of praise for Clemens.

Garner, now 63, told jurors that he once considered taking steroids around 1986 or '87 before deciding against it, and that he tried to convince two players to stop using them, including one he managed for the Tigers in 2001 and another back in the 1980s.

More specific to the defendant, Garner testified Clemens was successful later in his career because he was smarter and had always worked hard at his craft. Therefore, he wasn't surprised that Clemens had some of his most successful seasons of a stellar career as he aged into his 40s.

"No, it did not surprise me, knowing his mechanics and his work ethic," Garner said.

That said, hearing the allegations that Clemens had used steroids and human-growth hormone -- allegations that became public with the issue of the Mitchell Report in December 2007, which led to the 2008 Congressional hearing central to this case -- did surprise Garner.

"I was totally surprised," Garner said. "I had no observation that he'd done anything."

Under cross examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham, Garner also discussed how he was involved in negotiations in the 1980s between the players' union and management to establish testing for drugs. That was well before Congress ever became involved with its first hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball in 2005. And when Durham suggested to him that hearing served a very important purpose, Garner was clear with his answer.

"Yes, I'd agree with that," Garner said. "I would have preferred that Major League Baseball would have taken care of that themselves instead of having a Congressional hearing."

After Durham further suggested baseball was "falling down in acting responsibly" about taking care of the problem of performance-enhancing drugs in the game, Garner again didn't have to think long about his answer.

"That's fair," Garner said.

Part of the government's task in the case is to convince jurors that the Congressional hearings in 2005 and the one that involved Clemens in 2008 were worthwhile.

Clemens, who won a record seven Cy Young awards in a 24-year Major League career, is charged with three counts of making false statements, two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of Congress based on his testimony during the Feb. 13, 2008, hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a deposition conducted by committee staff members eight days earlier.

Brian McNamee, Clemens' strength and conditioning trainer for the better part of a decade, testified before Congress and at this trial that he injected Clemens with steroids and human-growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001, but never vitamin B12 or lidocaine, which are the substances Clemens testified McNamee injected into him.

Before Garner's testimony, the pending testimony of McNamee's estranged wife was subject of arguments outside the presence of the jury in Walton's courtroom Thursday morning.

The government did not call Eileen Taylor-McNamee to the stand during a presentation that included 24 witnesses, but it previously extended an offer of limited immunity to her for any criminal charges that might be connected with her testimony. Her attorney, Richard Gold, argued by speakerphone from New York that "[McNamee] has implicated her in an array of crimes that go well beyond the immunity," including possession of narcotics, possible crimes related to the holding of the evidence and charges relating to prescription drugs.

The defense wants to call McNamee's wife to impeach her estranged husband's testimony in this trial about 15 topics. By the end of arguments before Walton, the government indicated it would go back to the Department of Justice to get a full grant of immunity to cover Taylor-McNamee's testimony after having one more conversation with her attorney about what she's expected to say on the stand.

In another development, Walton asked the two legal sides whether they had discussed the possible removal of Act 15, one of 13 remaining acts in the obstruction charge, based on whether it was material to the case. That's the one related to whether Clemens was misleading investigators when he said he did not attend a June 1998 party at Jose Canseco's house, which McNamee said was part of his timeline of first injecting Clemens with steroids.

Nevertheless, the final witness called on Thursday was Federal Bureau of Investigation forensic expert Richard Vorder Bruegge, who testified that through shadow analysis he determined that the photograph of prosecution witness Alexander Lowrey, then an 11-year-old, and Clemens was taken between 2:55 and 4:20 p.m. ET. That somewhat coincides with Lowrey's time estimate but is a little later than when McNamee would have been there and, as he testified, saw Canseco and Clemens talking.

Other witnesses included Fanny Galbilanez, who said she was at Clemens' Manhattan apartment on 9/11 and cleaned his house as many as eight times during an undetermined time period before and after. She said she didn't see vials of steroids or film canisters of HGH while cleaning the apartment, but on cross-examination also acknowledged she didn't go poking into Clemens' closet or bags, either.

Also, Dr. Larry Likover, who first met Clemens in 1988, testified he gave Clemens several shots of B12 for a "boost," including one after one of their regular running workouts together, and that he gave Clemens samples of Vioxx, the anti-inflammatory Clemens told Congress he ate like Skittles. And massage therapist Cheryl Redfern of Toronto testified about giving Clemens numerous massages over the years from 1995 when he was with Boston through his time in Toronto and until he left the Yankees in 2003, saying she never saw him with acne -- the one possible side effect of steroid use Walton has allowed to be discussed in the trial.

Garner's testimony was the main course of business, however.

Under direct examination by Hardin, Garner spoke in glowing terms of Clemens' intensity and leadership. He also said he also took vitamin B12 shots for several years of his career and often used Vioxx himself. On the other hand, Garner discussed during cross about how Clemens had a special arrangement to miss some road trips and certain home games, which Durham raised to balance the leadership issue.

Garner said he thought about using steroids after a back injury threatened his career and he'd read about NFL player Brian Bosworth using steroids to recover from an injury. He said he consulted a physician friend and did some of his own research.

"I realized it was a terrible health risk and I decided not to do it," Garner said, saying he spoke to another player at that time who was using steroids and tried to convince him to stop.

Garner later said he had conversations with a player, whom he did not name, who said he was using steroids while Garner was managing the Tigers in 2001, and that he tried to get him to stop.

"We talked often, which would be every few days, for the rest of the season," Garner said.

The jury was excused until Tuesday, because one juror has a previous commitment she told the court about at the very beginning of the proceedings.

Walton will meet with attorneys Monday afternoon to go over issues relating to the testimony of McNamee's wife, as well as the possible inclusion of testimony or statements previously made to the media questioning the propriety of the 2008 hearing by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the current chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Thursday was the 26th day of proceedings, including jury selection, and the 21st court day of testimony in a trial that originally was estimated to last 4-6 weeks.

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