WASHINGTON — His large frame towering over the microphone, Roger Clemens leaned forward at the podium and declared to the judge in a deep voice with a Texas twang: "Yes sir, I am not testifying."
Minutes earlier, four prosecutors representing the U.S. government huddled at their table and then declared: No, they wouldn't roll the dice to try to introduce new evidence to bolster the credibility of their key witness. There was just too much risk that it could backfire.
The final set of witnesses took the stand Monday as the contentious, start-and-stop Clemens perjury trial entered its ninth week, and both sides played it safe with major decisions. The tenor would have obviously changed completely had the defendant chosen to take the stand, and the jury would have been given another set of dueling impressions of Brian McNamee if the government had sought to bring in more evidence of other players' use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Clemens is charged with lying to Congress in 2008 when he denied using steroids and human growth hormone in his 24-season major league career. The defense rested, and the government called three rebuttal witnesses Monday — including one who had testy exchanges with a Clemens lawyer about evidence saved with a beer can — and closing arguments are set for Tuesday.
The jury, which has heard from 46 witnesses over 26 days of testimony, could get the case Tuesday afternoon. The jury will be able to deliberate on Wednesday if necessary, before taking a four-day break while U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton is out of town. Barring a quick verdict, the trial will extend into a 10th week — when one of the jurors is scheduled to leave for a six-month trip to Germany.
With that in mind, the judge said he will promote the final alternate and designate the Germany-bound juror as the alternate. The juror added to the panel of 12 — eight women and four men — is an avid cyclist who said during jury selection that he knows people who use steroids.
McNamee, Clemens' longtime strength coach, testified that he injected the former pitcher with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with HGH in 2000. He is the only witness to claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens' use of performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens' lawyers devoted much of the trial attacking his integrity.Comment on this story
To that end, the last of the defense's 23 witnesses was Jerry Laveroni, the security director for the New York Yankees when McNamee was the club's assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2000-01. Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin used Laveroni to again make mention of two questionable incidents from 2001, when McNamee was involved in a criminal investigation in Florida and appeared disorientated in a hotel room in Seattle during a road trip.
"I don't believe he could be believed under oath," Laveroni said.
Clemens' lawyer Rusty Hardin asked how much credibility McNamee has.
"Zero," Laveroni replied.
To counter that powerful statement, the government wanted Laveroni to acknowledge that Yankees players Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton have all backed up McNamee's assertion that he helped them get HGH.