Roger Clemens holds bizarre press conference

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Roger Clemens unleashed a furious attack Monday on his former trainer Brian McNamee with a news conference featuring a tape of a secretly recorded phone call and a lawsuit accusing McNamee of lying about injecting him with performance-enhancing drugs.

“I’m going to Congress and I’m going to tell the truth,” Clemens vowed at the news conference shortly before he got angry while discussing his prospects of making the Hall of Fame and bolted off stage and out of the room.

McNamee responded to the day’s events through his lawyers, vowing to testify against Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, when both appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Jan. 16.

“It’s war now,” Richard D. Emery, one of McNamee’s lawyers, said in a phone interview. He lambasted Clemens for secretly taping the 17-minute phone call, saying McNamee had called Clemens because he wanted Clemens to talk to McNamee’s ailing 10-year-old son and that Clemens had taken advantage of the situation. “This guy will stop at nothing,” Emery said of Clemens.

In a related development, Andy Pettitte, a close friend and former teammate of Clemens who has admitted that McNamee told the truth about Pettitte’s links to human-growth hormone, has now hired a lawyer to represent him at the Jan. 16 hearing. The lawyer, Jay Reisinger of Pittsburgh, represented Sammy Sosa when Sosa was summoned to appear before Congress in March 2005.

In that hearing, Sosa took a back seat to Mark McGwire, who declined to answer most of the questions about performance-enhancing drugs that were posed to him. The question now is what questions Pettitte may be asked next week, and how many will be about Clemens.

A person who is familiar with developments in the Clemens-McNamee dispute said he believed that Clemens and Pettitte had talked in the past about H.G.H. If true, that would contradict assertions by Clemens that he was “shocked” to hear Pettitte linked to H.G.H. use in the report issued by George J. Mitchell on Dec. 13.

Mitchell’s report is at the heart of the defamation lawsuit against McNamee filed here Sunday and made public Monday.

Clemens’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, asserted in the lawsuit that a federal agent and a prosecutor had coerced and bullied McNamee into “false accusations” about injecting Clemens with steroids and H.G.H. and that the investigators for Mitchell, a former United States senator, had interviewed McNamee “like a Cold War-era interrogation.”

According to the lawsuit, McNamee did not implicate Clemens until a second day of questioning last June by Jeff Novitzky, a federal agent leading various steroids investigations, and Matthew Parrella, an assistant United States attorney in San Francisco. The lawsuit, quoting McNamee from an interview he gave to private investigators for Hardin shortly before the Mitchell report was released, said Novitzky went on a tirade and threw a piece of paper at McNamee and that Parrella said he had one last chance to avoid jail.

“After this exchange, and for the first time in his life, McNamee stated that he had injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001,” the suit says.

Mitchell on Monday night released a statement denying that assertion. He said he asked most of the questions during the first interview with McNamee after federal law enforcement officials, who were also present, reminded McNamee that he faced prosecution if he made any false statements. “There was no ‘Cold War era’ reading of McNamee’s prior statements by any federal official, as alleged,” Mitchell wrote.

McNamee’s lead lawyer, Earl Ward, said Monday that McNamee, in talking to Hardin’s investigators, had exaggerated the pressure he was under from federal officials “because he wanted to continue to stay in the good graces of Roger.”

“He lied to them,” Ward said of McNamee’s statements to Hardin’s investigators. He said he was present when the federal officials told McNamee “you’ve got to give us everything.”

“There were no angry words,” Ward said. “It was spoken in a perfectly normal manner.”

One issue that emerged Monday concerned Clemens’s statement, on a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday night, that he did not know ahead of time that he would be named in the Mitchell report. And yet the lawsuit said the investigators working on Clemens’s behalf had reached out to McNamee before the report was issued, clearly implying that Clemens and the people working for him knew what was coming.

Asked to explain the discrepancy, Hardin said Clemens could not be sure that he was going to be named in the report and thus had spoken honestly on the “60 Minutes” broadcast.

Meanwhile, lawyers for both sides put different interpretations on the secretly recorded phone call last Friday that was played at the Monday news conference. McNamee had contacted Clemens at least in part to ask him to speak with his ailing son. Clemens spoke to McNamee from his house, with the tape running and his lawyers listening in.

“All I did was what I thought was right, and I never thought it was right but I thought that I had no other choice, put it that way,” McNamee said on the call, referring to a federal threat of prosecution if he did not tell the truth.

Hardin emphasized that McNamee never contradicted Clemens during the call when Clemens said that he had not used performance-enhancing drugs and that McNamee should tell the truth.

“When Roger says, ‘I just want you to tell the truth,’ McNamee never says, ‘I did tell the truth,’ and when Roger says, ‘I never did drugs,’ McNamee never says, ‘Yes, you did,’ ” Hardin said in an interview.

Hardin said the call was “ambiguous” but worked in Clemens’s favor.

Emery countered that McNamee never stated during the call that he lied to federal investigators about Clemens and criticized Clemens for manipulating his client during the call. He said McNamee admired Clemens, his longtime employer, and was trying to ingratiate himself to Clemens during the conversation.

“That’s the tragedy of this whole thing, that McNamee is this guy who still loves Roger but had to tell the truth,” Emery said.

“This wasn’t a rational call — this was a call by a desperate person who thought he was out there hanging by a thread,” Emery said.

Ward, McNamee’s lead lawyer, said McNamee did not interrupt Clemens’s denials during the phone call because he did not want a confrontation. “He called him to say I need you and call my son and I’m sorry,” Ward said.

After the tape was played, Clemens stepped to the podium and answered questions.

“I’m trying to keep my composure here through all of this,” said Clemens, who at one point during the questions and answers was urged to “lighten up” in a note passed to him by Hardin.

Clemens has admitted McNamee gave him injections, but said it was vitamin B12 and the painkiller lidocaine. He said McNamee injected him with lidocaine for lower back pain in 1998, the first year McNamee says Clemens asked him to inject him with steroids.

Although McNamee told investigators that Clemens had provided the steroids that year, Clemens said he has never obtained any drugs. Even the lidocaine, he said at Monday’s press conference, came from others. As for the drugs McNamee injected, Clemens said, “I don’t know where he got it.”

Clemens said Monday that he received many injections of vitamin B12 over the years from trainers, nurses and doctors. He said it helped keep him from becoming ill.

Asked why he would take injections from a trainer who did not have a medical degree, he said: “I didn’t know that. I was told that he did.”


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