Clemens files defamation lawsuit against ex-trainer McNamee

Updated: January 8, 2008, 2:57 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Roger Clemens beat Brian McNamee to court, filing a defamation suit against the former trainer who claimed to have injected him with performance-enhancing drugs.

McNamee's attorney, Earl Ward, told ESPN's T.J. Quinn on Monday that McNamee is determined to file a counter lawsuit against Clemens. Ward said he spoke to McNamee on Monday morning and Clemens' statements in Sunday's "60 Minutes" interview are "a total lie."

No countersuit has been filed yet.

Clemens filed the suit Sunday night in Harris County District Court in Texas, listing 15 alleged statements McNamee made to the baseball drug investigator George Mitchell. Clemens claimed the statements were "untrue and defamatory."

"According to McNamee, he originally made his allegations to federal authorities after being threatened with criminal prosecution if he didn't implicate Clemens," according to the 14-page petition, obtained early Monday by The Associated Press.

Clemens On The Offensive
On Sunday night, Roger Clemens filed a defamation lawsuit against his former trainer, Brian McNamee.
Read the lawsuit (.pdf)

The suit, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, states that when McNamee told others that when he first was interviewed by federal law enforcement last June, he denied Clemens had used steroids or human growth hormone. The suit quotes McNamee as saying he was pressured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella and IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky -- key members of the BALCO prosecution -- to implicate Clemens. The suit did not attribute where the quote from McNamee was obtained.

"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 said. "Following his recantation, McNamee has relayed that he magically went from a 'target' in a federal criminal drug investigation to a mere 'witness,' so long as he continued to 'toe the line.' "

Richard Emery, one of McNamee's lawyers, said he would seek to remove the case to U.S. District Court in Houston, then to possibly shift it to federal court in Brooklyn.

"I think it's dismissible on its face. I think it's a press release for Clemens and his career," Emery said. "The case is shoddy at best. The prosecutors acted completely professionally in this case. This is a very odd thing for me to be saying, but it's the truth. Sometimes you are bound by the truth."

The suit said that when McNamee initially refused a request from federal authorities that he speak to Mitchell, he was threatened with prosecution. Clemens said McNamee decided only then to cooperate with Mitchell and the suit said McNamee said the interview "was conducted like a Cold War-era interrogation in which a federal agent merely read to the Mitchell investigators McNamee's previously obtained statement and then asked McNamee to confirm what he previously stated."

Clemens asked that damages be determined by a jury.

"Clemens' good reputation has been severely injured," the suit said. "McNamee's false allegations have also caused Clemens to suffer mental anguish, shame, public humiliation and embarrassment."

On Monday, Mitchell said the characterization of the interview as a 'Cold War interrogation' was false, according to the New York Daily News.

"At the outset of each of the interviews, the federal law enforcement officials told McNamee that he should just tell the truth and warned him that he faced criminal jeopardy if he made any false statements," Mitchell said, according to the Daily News. "Also at each of the interviews, I told him that all I asked of him was the truth, nothing more and nothing less. He said that he understood and would comply.

"Occasionally, members of my investigative staff or some of the federal law enforcement officials who were present asked questions or sought clarification. There was no 'Cold War era' reading of McNamee's prior statements by any federal official, as alleged," Mitchell said, according to the Daily News.

Ward believes Clemens filing the lawsuit is the pitcher's way of getting out of testifying at next week's congressional hearing about the Mitchell report.

"[The lawsuit is an] amateur and transparent attempt to try to avoid testifying before Congress," Ward told Quinn.

Clemens' attorney has said the lawsuit wouldn't keep him from potentially testifying before the hearing.

A fiery look in his eyes and stubble on his face, Clemens told CBS' Mike Wallace during the "60 Minutes" interview that he would have spoken with baseball drug investigator George Mitchell had he been aware of the extent of McNamee's accusations.

Ward told ESPN's Quinn that he has documentary proof that Clemens hired his attorneys before the Mitchell report came out. Ward claims that Clemens sent investigators to speak with McNamee to ask him what he told Mitchell. Ward says McNamee told those investigators everything he told Mitchell, thus contradicting Clemens' claim that he didn't know what information was going to come out in the Mitchell report.

The seven-time Cy Young Award winner held a late afternoon news conference Monday in Houston. During it, he played a tape of the 17-minute conversation he had with McNamee. Clemens repeatedly denies taking steroids, but a distraught McNamee neither confirms nor denies those assertions.

That comes after Clemens sounded indignant and defiant in a segment of CBS's "60 Minutes" broadcast Sunday night, his first interview since McNamee accused him. The pair are approaching a potential confrontation if the pair testify under oath at a Jan. 16 hearing on Capitol Hill.

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The most prominent player implicated in last month's Mitchell report, on Sunday Clemens steadfastly maintained his innocence and called McNamee's allegations "totally false."

"If he's doing that to me, I should have a third ear coming out of my forehead. I should be pulling tractors with my teeth," said Clemens, who wore a lavender button-down shirt during the interview, taped Dec. 28 at his home in Katy, Texas.

On Friday, when the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform invited Clemens and McNamee to testify, the pair spoke by telephone, an individual close to the situation said, speaking on condition of anonymity because public comments weren't authorized. The conversation first was reported Sunday by Newsday.

The individual would not say what was discussed.

Clemens' lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told the Chronicle that it was McNamee who arranged to talk to Clemens on Friday but instead of getting back to Clemens the conversation was leaked "with spin" to Newsday.

"We kept thinking McNamee might change his mind and come to his senses and admit he was lying," Hardin told the Chronicle.

During the "60 Minutes" segment, Clemens said he might be willing to take a lie-detector test and was "shocked" close friend Andy Pettitte used HGH. He said -- again -- that he probably will retire.

"I thought it was an impassioned, disingenuous and desperate plea," said Ward.

One of the few revelations in the much-hyped interview came when Clemens was asked whether he conceivably would take a lie detector test.

"Yeah," he answered. "I don't know if they're good or bad."

After Monday's news conference will come the congressional hearing. Pettitte, former Yankees teammate Chuck Knoblauch and former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, who allegedly supplied McNamee with performance-enhancing drugs, also were asked to appear before the committee.

Lawyers for Clemens and McNamee have said their clients are willing to testify but Hardin wouldn't commit to the date.

Emery said he wanted to hear testimony from Clemens.

"If Congress calls him, he pretty much has to take the Fifth, and if he takes the Fifth, nobody will ever believe him again and all this effort has gone down the drain," Emery said. "And if he doesn't take the Fifth, it's very hard to imagine that a prosecutor isn't going to pursue this. So I think he's put himself in a terrible corner."

Clemens said his lawyer advised him not to speak with Mitchell, who spent 20 months on his investigation.

"If I would've known what this man, what Brian McNamee [had] said in this report, I would have been down there in a heartbeat to take care of it," Clemens said.

Only two active players, Jason Giambi and Frank Thomas, spoke with Mitchell, a Boston Red Sox director and a former Senate majority leader.

In excerpts of the CBS interview that were released Thursday, Clemens said McNamee injected him with vitamin B-12 and the painkiller lidocaine. In the full 14-minute broadcast, Clemens also said he was given an injection of toradol under the supervision of the New York Yankees.

McNamee told Mitchell he injected Clemens with steroids and HGH about 16 to 21 times during 1998, 2000 and 2001 -- before baseball players and owners agreed to ban performance-enhancing substances.

Eighth on the career list with 354 wins, the 45-year-old Clemens said he was angered McNamee's accusations have been accepted as truth by some.

"It's hogwash for people to even assume this," Clemens said. "Twenty-four, 25 years, Mike. You'd think I'd get an inch of respect. An inch."

Clemens said the descriptions McNamee gave Mitchell of injections "never happened."

"If I have these needles and these steroids and all these drugs, where did I get 'em?" he said. "Where is the person out there [who] gave 'em to me? Please, please come forward."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.