Roger Clemens in Federal Court Regarding Attorney Conflict of Interest

Ex-New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, accused of lying to Congress about steroid use, told a federal judge he won’t challenge a possible conviction on grounds involving his lawyers’ potential conflict of interest.

Clemens, responding to questions from U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton during a hearing yesterday in Washington, indicated he understood the ramifications of the potential conflict and waived his right to contest it. By agreeing, Clemens signaled that he wants to keep his current legal team.

Clemens was asked directly whether he is willing to waive any potential conflict of interest, to which he responded in the affirmative.

U.S. prosecutors requested the hearing, saying Clemens’ lead lawyer, Rusty Hardin, and his Houston-based law firm previously did work on behalf of Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte. That work may bar Hardin and his firm from cross-examining Pettitte, a government witness, if the criminal case against Clemens proceeds to trial, prosecutors said.

Hardin said during the 20-minute hearing that a lawyer from another firm had been retained specifically to avoid any conflicts that might arise from the previous work for Pettitte.

Clemens, 48, was indicted in August on one count of obstructing a congressional investigation, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. Clemens, who also played for the Boston Rex Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros over a 24-year Major League Baseball career, pleaded not guilty. He faces a $1.5 million fine and a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Jury selection is scheduled to begin July 6.

The allegations of drug use were made by Brian McNamee, a former trainer to both Clemens and Pettitte.

In an interesting twist at the hearing, Judge Walton admitted that while he was visiting his hometown in Donora, Pennsylvania, a former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey Sr., who Walton said he “played ball with,” came up to him and asked the judge whether he was handling the Clemens case. Walton said he was and that Griffey responded, “He’s a good guy.” Walton said he told Griffey that he couldn’t talk about the case.

Walton asked whether either of the parties would object to him continuing to preside over the case because of the incident. Both Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Butler and the defense said they were fine with it. Therefore, both parties will not be able to raise a subsequent objection regarding the judge’s neutrality.

Clemens, in a January 21 filing, asked Walton to dismiss the charges, saying the indictment doesn’t explain how he allegedly obstructed a congressional investigation in 2008 when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

Walton has yet to rule on the motion to dismiss. At this point, it looks like Clemens is going to trial this summer, where a jury will determine his guilt or innocence.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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