Defense: Roger Clemens just trying to clear his name

Roger Clemens leaves the U.S. District Court after Roger Clemens leaves the U.S. District Court after the first day his perjury and obstruction trial in Washington, DC. (April 23, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

advertisement | advertise on newsday

WASHINGTON -- The government's perjury case against Roger Clemens is based on "half stories" about a man who shouldn't be prosecuted for saying he didn't commit a crime, defense attorney Rusty Hardin told jurors on Tuesday.

Hardin laid out his evidence in an hourlong opening statement that included a vigorous defense of the former Yankees pitcher and an aggressive attack on Clemens' chief accuser, former trainer Brian McNamee. It drew four objections from federal prosecutors.

"Our government should never punish someone for trying to clear his name, and our government should never, ever prosecute someone for saying, 'I didn't do it,' " Hardin said.

A day after Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Durham said in his opening statement that the former Yankee pitcher purposely spun "a tangled web of lies" to deny he used steroids and human growth hormone, Hardin painted a starkly different picture of Clemens, 49.

Clemens was one of the hardest working ballplayers during a stellar 24-year career, Hardin said. After McNamee accused him of steroid use in professional baseball's Mitchell Report, released in December 2007, Clemens went on a campaign to clear his name, said Hardin.

Clemens didn't lie under oath to Congress, Hardin said. "What man, except a crazy man, does that?" he asked.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Clemens sat at the defense table, often watching intently, as Hardin spoke. Clemens is charged with one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of false statements and two counts of perjury for allegedly lying to Congress.

"We're not going to talk bad about anybody, except Brian McNamee," Hardin said. McNamee has a history of lying to law enforcement and investigators and has profited on his "newfound celebrity," he said.

Hardin showed photos of the cover of McNamee's unpublished manuscript and of the Long Beach resident leaving court wearing a tie imprinted with the name of a vitamin company he's associated with.Hardin questioned the legitimacy of the syringe and cotton swabs McNamee said he kept after injecting Clemens in August 2001 -- key evidence introduced by the prosecution -- and called it "the most mixed-up hodgepodge of garbage you can imagine."

Hardin said no one else has accused Clemens of using steroids and HGH, despite the government's effort to find other witnesses and evidence. As he did last year, Hardin showed a chart displaying a nationwide search: 187 witnesses interviewed, 268 interview reports and 79 interview locations.

In a raised voice, Hardin said the search involved "103 -- 103 federal officers over whether a baseball player used steroids."

After Hardin's statement, Durham put on his first witness, Phil Barnett, chief of staff of the House committee that held the hearings. Barnett testified the hearings were legitimate and important.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton recessed the trial until next Monday morning.

You also may be interested in: