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Clemens struggles to win decision on evidence for perjury trial

By Paul Courson, CNN
  • Two baseball greats fighting similar charges in steroids scandal
  • Barry Bonds in the bottom of the ninth; Roger Clemens not yet on the mound
  • Clemens team trying to press subpoenas to obtain materials needed for his defense

Washington (CNN) -- Two courtrooms, one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast; two legendary baseball players, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens; and one game neither wants to lose: fighting charges that include perjury and obstruction of justice related to investigations of illicit steroid use.

A jury in San Francisco resumes deliberations Monday in a trial effectively down to its last inning for Bonds while lawyers for Clemens try to line up their batting order in a game yet to begin in the nation's capital.

Bonds, Major League Baseball's home run king, is accused of lying to a federal grand jury about knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs and about being injected by anyone but his doctors. He faces three perjury counts and one count of obstruction of justice, each carrying a 10-year prison sentence upon conviction. Prosecutors dropped a fourth perjury charge last week.

Clemens was charged with one count of obstruction of justice, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury in an indictment in August.

As his case moves toward trial this summer, the Clemens defense team resumed a pitch to a federal judge in recent days, hoping he will force the disclosure of information gathered by an independent panel commissioned by Major League Baseball.

The panel, led by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, produced a report through his law firm in late 2007 that led to congressional hearings in early 2008 exploring the extent of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Clemens was called to testify under oath before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about findings in the report suggesting that he was among the alleged users. What he said was at odds with testimony given at the same hearing by his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee, sitting at the same witness table.

The discrepancies prompted lawmakers to ask the Justice Department to investigate.

Clemens has pleaded not guilty to the six-count indictment and has denied that he used steroids during his career.

His attorneys have subpoenaed internal documents from the Mitchell Report and from the House panel that relied on its findings to question Clemens at that hearing and in a closed-door deposition. But in fighting the subpoenas, both targets have told the judge Clemens is not entitled to the information as he prepares his defense.

"Mr. Clemens does not seek to use any of the materials against the Committee, its Members or its staff," wrote his attorneys in a filing published last week, trying to refute a motion to quash their subpoena based on constitutional protection of congressional activities.

Saying there was no legislative connection that would warrant protection under the Speech and Debate Clause, the Clemens defense filing says the sole purpose of the House hearing was "to pit two witnesses against each other in order to test the accuracy of one portion of a privately commissioned report."

Clemens has also pushed back against Mitchell's law firm, which said the handwritten notes and other materials were protected internal activity, not subject to his subpoena.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton may rule on the matter before the next pretrial hearing, set for April 21. Meanwhile, Walton has scheduled jury selection for July 6.

The Barry Bonds trial began last month in a San Francisco federal courthouse less than two miles from the ballpark where Bonds broke Hank Aaron's major league home run record in August 2007.

The Clemens courthouse is within sight of the U.S. Capitol where he allegedly lied to Congress. He is a seven-time winner of baseball's coveted Cy Young Award and the ninth-winningest pitcher in the sport's history.