Clemens hearing postponed

January 9, 2008 7:11:19 PM PST
Congress wants to be prepared when Roger Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, head to Capitol Hill.The House hearing involving Clemens, McNamee and Andy Pettitte was postponed Wednesday from Jan. 16 until Feb. 13, giving lawmakers more time to gather evidence, to take depositions from the witnesses and to coordinate their investigation with the Justice Department.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was to begin meeting with lawyers for the witnesses Thursday. Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, said he hopes to meet with committee staffers next week. In addition, McNamee is to meet with federal prosecutors Thursday in New York.

"Roger hasn't done anything," Hardin said. "The federal government looking at Roger is fine with me."

Plans are still in place for the Jan. 15 hearing before the same committee about the Mitchell Report on baseball's Steroids Era. The witnesses that day will be commissioner Bud Selig, union leader Donald Fehr and former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, the report's author.

Questioned by federal prosecutors last year, McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone in 1998, 2000 and 2001. Prosecutors had him repeat those charges to Mitchell, and since the report was issued last month, Clemens has repeatedly and vehemently denied the allegations.

A lawyer for McNamee said Wednesday his client wants immunity from the House committee. Hardin said Clemens will not request immunity.

McNamee will meet with the BALCO prosecutors who are in the area for former track star Marion Jones' sentencing Friday. Jones pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about steroid use and a check-fraud scheme.

"They want to talk to him while they're in town," said Earl Ward, McNamee's primary lawyer.

Does this mean prosecutors are now turning their attention to Clemens?

"Nothing like that," Ward said. "They just wanted grab a cup coffee, that's all. It's just an informal, quick meeting."

Last week, Congress asked seven-time Cy Young Award winner Clemens, teammate and friend Pettitte and their ex-trainer, McNamee, to testify under oath. Also invited were former Yankees player Chuck Knoblauch and Kirk Radomski, the former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who was one of the main sources of evidence for the Mitchell Report.

Radomski pleaded guilty in April to federal felony charges of distributing steroids and laundering money, and he is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 8.

"The Justice Department told the committee it would be helpful if we waited until after Radomski is sentenced," the committee's minority staff director, David Marin, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "This also gives us more time to delve into more recent developments, gather more information, and depose all witnesses before they testify in public."

McNamee lawyer Richard Emery said he believed the postponement was an act of respect toward Mitchell and Tuesday's session.

"He wanted it to be focused on steroids issues and the larger policy issues instead of everyone waiting with bated breath for the professional wrestler to get up there and make a statement," Emery said. "Roger became the main attraction. Usually Congress loves those kind of shows."

Plenty has happened since the committee called for the Clemens-Pettitte-McNamee hearing last Friday.

Clemens, who ranks eighth in major league history with 354 wins, filed a defamation lawsuit Sunday against McNamee. Also Sunday, a TV interview with Clemens aired in which he said McNamee injected him only with vitamin B-12 and the painkiller lidocaine. The pitcher then held a news conference Monday, when he said, "I'm going to Congress, and I'm going to tell the truth," and played a recording of a 17-minute telephone conversation with McNamee that Clemens' side secretly taped.

That tape could be among the items requested by the committee, the same House panel that brought sluggers Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro to Capitol Hill in March 2005. No depositions were taken before that hearing.

"We are considering requests for information from all relevant sources," said Karen Lightfoot, communications director for the committee's chairman, California Democrat Henry Waxman.

McNamee's attorneys have urged the committee to obtain a recording of a conversation between his client and investigators who work for Clemens' law firm. That meeting took place Dec. 12, a day before the Mitchell Report was released.

Pettitte acknowledged McNamee injected him twice with HGH. Radomski is alleged to have supplied McNamee with performance-enhancing drugs.

"I'll be very interested to see the order of the depositions, whether we will be provided with other people's depositions when they are taken," Emery said.

If the witnesses are allowed to see others' depositions, that could create an advantage for those testifying later in the process.

Hardin said: "The one thing I want to make certain is, is that we don't educate McNamee as to which story to tell these days."

McNamee reached an agreement in which he would not be prosecuted as long as he was truthful in what he told federal investigators and Mitchell. His lawyers will seek a similar agreement with the committee, Emery said.

Marin declined to comment when asked about the possibility of immunity for congressional testimony. Before the committee's 2005 hearing, Jose Canseco -- whose book about steroids in baseball drew congressional scrutiny -- requested immunity but was turned down.

The 45-year-old Clemens put off retirement yet again in 2007, returning to the Yankees in June and going 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA. The right-hander hasn't said whether he will pitch in the majors in 2008.

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