WASHINGTON >> Star-struck at 11 when he saw pitching great Roger Clemens, a 25-year-old man became a witness for prosecutors seeking to convict the former baseball player of lying to Congress.
At issue was a 1998 gathering at player Jose Canseco’s house that Clemens denied attending — one of the false statements prosecutors allege Clemens made in his 2008 congressional deposition.
On Monday, Alexander Lowrey testified that he saw Clemens at the party. Prosecutors showed several photos of the former pitcher in attendance, including one of the 11-year-old Lowrey on the deck of the pool, next to a smiling Clemens standing in the shallow end of the water. The former pitcher’s hair is bleach-blond, which is how Lowrey said he recalled it.
Lowrey said he had been invited to the party in south Florida by a handyman who worked for his family’s business as well as Canseco. At the time, Clemens and Canseco were teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays. Lowrey said he played baseball back then and looked up to Clemens as “one of the best pitchers in the game.”
Clemens’ lawyer tried to play with the potentially faulty memory Lowrey might have of a party that happened more than a dozen years ago. Lowrey couldn’t remember some details and said he had to estimate the times he arrived and left, but he said he had a clear memory of meeting Clemens and Canseco.
Brian McNamee, Clemens’ longtime strength and conditioning coach, has said he saw Clemens and Canseco talking to a mysterious third person at the pool party, a person McNamee said he felt had a connection to steroids. McNamee said he first injected Clemens with steroids a few days later and continued to do so in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Clemens’ denial at a 2008 House hearing and deposition of taking performance-enhancing drugs led to his indictment for lying to Congress.
Clemens, in his congressional deposition in February 2008, said, “I never was at the party.” Later in the deposition, he said: “I wasn’t here at this — at a party that he had. I could have gone by there after a golf outing. So — but I was not at this party.”
Prosecutors tried to hammer the point by showing a video of Clemens testifying before Congress a few days later, where he says he might have dropped off at the party his wife or a relative who had golfed with him.
“But at the time of the day that I would have expressed it to be, I was on my way to the ballpark,” he insisted. “I would have had to have gotten to the ballpark extremely early. I know one thing. I wasn’t there having huddled up with somebody trying to do a drug deal. I know that for sure.”
Over at the defense table, Clemens nodded — as if in agreement with his previous statement.
McNamee, the only person to claim firsthand knowledge of Clemens using steroids and human growth hormone, finally got to name names in front of the jury: Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch and Mike Stanton.
Before Monday’s session, he had not been allowed to say that he provided former Clemens teammates Pettitte and Knoblauch with human growth hormone, or that he helped ex-Clemens teammate Stanton obtain HGH from drug dealer Kirk Radomski. The judge had ruled that such information could prejudice the jury against Clemens.
But Hardin’s grueling cross-examination tipped the balance in the other direction, prosecutors argued. Hardin suggested before the jury last week that McNamee had solely or primarily targeted Clemens, and that no one had been charged in connection with McNamee’s accusations, raising the issue of McNamee’s credibility.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton therefore ruled that McNamee could name Knoblauch and Stanton as receiving HGH in 2001 when they were with the New York Yankees, and Pettitte in 2002 when he was with the Yankees. The judge instructed the jury that the names could only be used to help establish McNamee’s “credibility as a witness” and cannot be used to “infer Mr. Clemens’ guilt.”
McNamee’s integrity and credibility were attacked relentlessly last week by Clemens’ lawyer, and the government embarked on a rehabilitation job with its key witness during follow-up questioning Monday. McNamee also apologized for the medical condition that caused him to take frequent breaks. He came across as a sympathetic figure in the final moments of some 26 hours on the stand, a small counterweight to three days of brutal cross-examination.
With McNamee finished after five-plus days on the stand, prosecutors called a Miller-Coors manager to testify about the beer can McNamee says he used to store waste after an alleged steroids injection of Clemens in August 2001. The witness, Anthony Manuele, looking at markings on the bottom of the can, was able to confirm that it would have been on shelves between August 2001 and Nov. 15, 2001 — coinciding with McNamee’s timeframe.
Hardin, on cross-examination, needled prosecutors by asking Manuele, “You don’t sell these beer cans to keep needles, do you?”
The judge sustained a government objection, but not before Manuele could answer, “No, sir.”
Lawyers indicated to the judge that the government might wrap up its case this week, even though Tuesday will be a day off because of a conflict with Walton’s schedule. Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin then said he would need seven or eight days to present the defense’s case. Both sides are working to finish before June 8, when further conflicts with Walton’s schedule could cause the trial to go on recess for a month.
Associated Press writer Joseph White contributed to this report.