Lawyer: Clemens' testimony not credible
Pitcher's performance could result in perjury charges
WASHINGTON -- Roger Clemens was unconvincing in his testimony before Congress and may have opened himself up to federal perjury charges, a legal expert told MLB.com on Wednesday.
Katherine Darmer, a former assistant U.S. attorney in New York and an expert on criminal procedure, said that Clemens did not come across as credible and that it would not be surprising to see the former big league hurler experience more legal troubles in days to come.
"I thought Roger Clemens did not come across well," said Darmer, a professor of law at Chapman (Calif.) University. "Coming at it from pretty much an open mind, I just thought he was not credible. He's obviously got a lot to lose with his denials, but if I were his lawyer or his family, I'd be worried about perjury charges."
Darmer said that Clemens may have been ill-advised to testify before Congress, especially after Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said Wednesday that he was prepared to shy away from holding the hearing.
Clemens insisted that he wanted an opportunity to set the record straight against lingering charges from his former trainer, Brian McNamee. Darmer said she believed Clemens thought he would have been able to better convince the committee of his innocence.
"I think it backfired," Darmer said. "This may not be the majority view, but in watching these two guys, I just thought Roger came across as [less] credible. They were able to point to a number of inconsistencies, particularly his deposition denials, where he denied repeatedly that he'd had any conversations with McNamee about [HGH], and then later, he said, 'Except for when my wife [used].' It didn't add up."
One of Clemens' lawyers, Lanny Breuer, said that he would let the American public decide for itself and that he was proud of Wednesday's proceedings. Breuer said he did not know if there would be charges in the matter.
"I have no idea," Breuer said. "I've done this too long to ever predict. I have a lot of confidence in the Department of Justice and I would hope they would decide that this is a battle and a disagreement among private litigants."
Darmer noted that, before Congress, Clemens attempted to steer several questions and did not answer in a straight-forward fashion at times, especially when inconsistencies in his testimony were pointed out.
By contrast, she said, McNamee "owned up" to his past transgressions and came across as the more credible person. That may not have been the case if either Andy Pettitte or Chuck Knoblauch had denied human growth hormone use with McNamee's assistance, but both admitted they used the substance.
But Darmer would have agreed with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who said that when asked to choose between the stories of Clemens and McNamee, he found the most credible person to be Pettitte.
Pettitte partly corroborated McNamee's story by testifying that he spoke with Clemens in 1999 or 2000 about using human growth hormone. Though Pettitte said Clemens backtracked when asked again about HGH in 2005, Pettitte's affidavit said that he did not press the issue, not because he believed Clemens never used HGH, but because he did not want to force an argument.
"Pettitte doesn't seem to have any reason to lie about Clemens," Darmer said. "I think when you've got people telling inconsistent stories and then there's an independent person verifying that version, to me, that was much more convincing.
"Somebody's lying, obviously. There's no way you can reconcile these two stories, and I think there's a lot of ways you can't reconcile Clemens' own story. Given that there's an independent third party, I think Clemens could face charges."
Darmer said that Clemens' tours of Capitol Hill on three recent days, going door-to-door to meet with as many representatives as possible, were an ill-guided attempt to exert influence.
"He's got star power, and I think he was hoping he could use that and leverage that," Darmer said. "He's a national hero and a lot of people love the guy. As a federal prosecutor looking at these guys, I think Clemens is in trouble."
Should Congress not pursue the inconsistencies in Clemens' story, Darmer said, the message to the American people would not be favorable.
"To me, it would look like they are giving special favors to a well-loved sports hero," Darmer said. "I think almost anyone else that appeared before Congress and told what, I believe, will turn out as bold-faced lies, would face consequences. Were they to just let it slide, I don't think that would look good for Congress."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.