WASHINGTON – Brian McNamee, the chief prosecution witness in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, conceded Thursday he initially lied about his involvement with steroids.
In January 2007, McNamee sent an email to Jim Murray, an employee of the agency that represents Clemens, complaining about "gross inaccuracies" in a newspaper story that identified him as a steroids supplier. He also claimed in the email he had been assured by Jeff Novitzky, at the time an Internal Revenue Service agent investigating drug use in sports, that McNamee was not named in a search warrant affidavit referenced in the story.
"It was a lie wasn't it?" Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin said.
"Yes," McNamee said, adding, "It was just self-preservation."
In fact, McNamee didn't have any contact with Novitzky until several months later.
Hardin also highlighted an email that McNamee sent to Clemens around that time.
"Explain to the jury about how you would write emails to the supposed co-crook with you ... professing your innocence?" the lawyer demanded.
"It was to explain to Roger I had his back, and I wasn't going to rat him out," explained McNamee, Clemens former long-time strength and conditioning coach.
McNamee wasn't subtle in trying to get that point across in the email, writing in capital letters, "I WILL NEVER BETRAY MY CLIENTS AND I WANT THEM NOT TO WORRY ABOUT BEING AROUND ME." This was before federal authorities approached McNamee, and, facing possible prosecution, he agreed to provide information about pro baseball players using drugs, most notably Clemens.
Clemens is on trial for allegedly lying to Congress in 2008 when he denied using steroids or human growth hormone. McNamee testified he injected the former pitcher multiples times in 1998, 2000 and 2001.
Hardin also tried to get McNamee to admit that he never told Clemens he was discussing the pitcher's alleged drug use with federal authorities. McNamee said that Clemens never asked.
"How could he ask if he didn't know?" Hardin demanded.
"How could I answer if he didn't ask?" McNamee replied.
"You're serious?" Hardin said.
Clemens' lawyer took an angry and condescending tone with McNamee all morning, beginning many questions with, "Isn't it true..."
He threw so many questions in rapid-fire succession that McNamee said, "I'm trying to keep up, man."
McNamee also conceded that after his first meeting with prosecutors in June 2007, they accused him of lying to them because he had held back on the number of times he had injected Clemens in 1998. He told them four or five times in an effort, he said, to minimize the damage to Clemens. In his second meeting with prosecutors, he increased the number by another four or five.
"They were deciding what the truth was, weren't they?" Hardin asked.
"That's not accurate," McNamee said.
Also Thursday, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton told lawyers out of earshot of the jury that some jurors had wondered how long the trial, now in its fifth week, will last.
"At this pace, I'll guess we'll be here forever," the judge said.
A prosecutor said he expected to finish the case by the end of next week — or at the latest early the following week. He said the government had 14 more witnesses after McNamee.
"Fourteen additional witnesses?" Walton said incredulously.
But the judge also challenged Hardin's cross-examination.
"It's confusing everybody, but I don't think it's making much of a point," he said.
After the government's case, the defense then brings its own witnesses if it chooses to.
Walton said that the case is dragging on too long, and that jurors want to get back to their lives. He warned that one side could suffer — although he didn't know which one.
"Like flipping a coin — 50/50," Walton quipped, a reference to former Clemens' teammate Andy Pettitte's testimony in the trial. Pettitte testified earlier that Clemens said he used HGH, but under cross-examination agreed there was a 50/50 chance he might have misunderstood Clemens.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this report.
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