Roger Clemens' perjury trial: What you need to know

One of the greatest pitchers in baseball history is being accused of lying to Congress about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs

Roger Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers ever, went on trial Wednesday for allegedly lying to Congress during its investigation into steroid use in professional baseball.
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens went on trial Wednesday, facing charges that he lied to Congress when he testified that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens, whose seven Cy Young awards make him the most decorated pitcher in baseball history, once seemed a sure bet for the sport's Hall of Fame. Now, he may just be hoping to avoid prison. Here, a brief guide to the trial, which is expected to last up to six weeks:

What do prosecutors say Clemens did wrong?

They've listed 15 statements he made to Congress that they say were false or misleading. For that, they've charged him with obstructing Congress' investigation into performance-boosting drug use in professional baseball. They say Clemens lied when he told members of Congress that he never used human growth hormone, or anabolic steroids. He's also charged with lying when he said his trainer, Brian McNamee, had never injected him with vitamin B12.

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How much prison time could he face?

He faces six counts in all, and each of them is punishable with up to five years in prison. That means, technically, that he could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted on all counts, plus a fine of up to $1.5 million. But sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of between one and two years if he's convicted on all charges. Of course, he could also strike a plea agreement with prosecutors.

What is Clemens' defense?

The pitcher's attorneys reportedly plan to base their case on Clemens' claim that he did not know what was in the injections McNamee gave him. McNamee is expected to testify that he injected Clemens with steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) many times in 1998 and 2001, and that Clemens knew what he was getting. Clemens has said that he always thought McNamee was just giving him vitamins.

How will the two sides try to prove their cases?

Clemens' lawyers want to play a tape of Clemens' congressional testimony, because they say his tone and inflection will support his case. But Congress so far has provided only a transcript, which has angered U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who is hearing the case. Prosecutors will call McNamee to the stand to tell his version of the story. They'll also try to back up what McNamee says by questioning Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, and Mike Stanton, all former teammates of Clemens who say they knowingly got injections of performance-enhancing drugs from McNamee. But that might not happen, as Walton says their testimony could be unfair.

Is prosecuting Clemens really worth it?

Probably not, says Jerome Solomon at The Houston Chronicle. The government's case is weak. "It is a classic he said-he said case, and as entertaining as it stands to be, in the end it won't be worth the money or the time." Indeed, when the Feds went after Barry Bonds, baseball's home run king, over his alleged lies regarding steroid use, "the taxpayers had to cough up more than $55 million to pay for it," says John Stossel at Fox News. "I bet Clemens' case will cost at least that. Why should you have to pay for this?"

Sources: Houston Chronicle (2)(3), Fox News, NY Times, Wash. Post

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