Committee chair warns Clemens' attorney on comments regarding Novitzky

Updated: February 11, 2008, 6:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Rep. Henry Waxman said comments attributed to one of Roger Clemens' lawyers could be interpreted as trying to intimidate a federal law enforcement official.

Rusty Hardin, Clemens' lead lawyer, told The New York Times on Saturday that it would be "brazen" and "unbelievable" if IRS Special Agent Jeff Novitzky, a key prosecutor in the BALCO drug cases, attends the hearing.

"If he ever messes with Roger, Roger will eat his lunch," Hardin was quoted as saying.

Waxman, the committee chairman, wrote a letter to Hardin on Sunday saying that some comments by Hardin and McNamee's lawyers were "inadvisable."

"I do not know your intent in making this statement, but under one interpretation it can be seen an attempt to intimidate a federal law enforcement official in the performance of his official duties," Waxman wrote. "It is not your client's prerogative to dictate who attends or does not attend the hearing. ... I trust you did not intend your comments to be a signal that there could be adverse repercussions to a federal law enforcement official for attending the hearing or taking other official actions."

Hardin wrote to Waxman late Sunday, saying his comments were "inelegant" and "I regret it." Hardin said he meant that if Novitzky pursued legal action against Clemens he would lose, and the remarks were "not meant as a threat of personal action against agent Novitzky."

"I lost my cool. It's not a very judicious statement," Hardin told The New York Daily News on Sunday. "This is the frustration of what these guys are doing."

Still, Hardin criticized Novitzky in the letter for "conduct that could reasonably be perceived as witness intimidation" and conduct "intended to chill Roger Clemens' attempts to publicly defend his reputation."

Meanwhile, one of Brian McNamee's lawyers said Sunday he believed the Justice Department will open a criminal investigation into Clemens' denials of doping.

Clemens gave a five-hour deposition last week to staff lawyers of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform prior to Wednesday's public hearing. McNamee, former personal trainer to the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, gave a seven-hour deposition.

"I think there will be a criminal prosecution after Wednesday, and that means there will be grand jury proceedings and subsequent proceedings," said Richard Emery, one of McNamee's attorneys. "I don't see there's any possibility that Brian has any jeopardy. I only see the possibility of Clemens getting investigated by Justice, whether or not Congress refers it."

A message left Sunday night requesting Justice Department comment was not immediately returned.

With Wednesday's hearing before Congress looming, Hardin concedes Clemens could face a Justice Department perjury investigation similar to those of Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada and other athletes accused of doping.

"We have known always, and particularly after they referred Tejada, that that was a very strong likelihood as a result of anybody testifying differently than the Mitchell report," Hardin told the New York Daily News.

Clemens "would prefer not to have to go through the expense and time of a federal investigation -- nobody welcomes that," Hardin told the newspaper. "He knows that any legitimate investigation is never going to conclude that he used steroids or growth hormone, and he can't do anything about whether somebody refers him."

The committee called this hearing as part of its probe into the Mitchell report, in which McNamee went public with his accusations against Clemens. The same committee last month asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Tejada lied when he told staff in 2005 that he never took illegal performance-enhancing drugs and had no knowledge of other players using or talking about steroids. The FBI's field office in Washington is handling that inquiry.

Told of Emery's comments, Hardin said: "They have consistently acted and indicated that they have a pipeline to agents of the Department of Justice. Whether they do or not, it certainly raises a lot of questions of whether what's going on here is proper. So I'm not going to express any predictions of what will or will not happen."

McNamee says he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone at least 16 times in 1998, 2000 and 2001, accusations Clemens has repeatedly denied. Both are set to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill in what figures to be a day of high drama.

"Our position is very simple: Roger did not take steroids, he did not use human growth hormone, and he has demonstrated that he is willing to repeatedly testify under oath as to the truth of those matters," Hardin said.

McNamee last month gave the Justice Department what he says are needles from times Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs, evidence that the pitcher's legal team says is manufactured. Emery said he thinks there will be a Justice Department investigation of Clemens even if the committee doesn't ask for one.

"If the tests come back that he is connected with those syringes, they have evidence that contradicts his sworn statement to federal officials," Emery said.

Barry Bonds, baseball's career home run leader, was indicted in November on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice in connection with grand jury testimony in which he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens spent two days visiting congressmen last week and may again on Tuesday.

Former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski also weighed in on the dispute, telling ESPN.com that he thinks McNamee has told the truth about Clemens -- although Radomski said he was no direct knowledge about Clemens.

Radomski, who led investigators to McNamee, pleaded guilty to distributing steroids and laundering money and was sentenced Friday to five years' probation and ordered to pay an $18,575 fine.

"I think [McNamee] is very believable. He was a cop. He knows the consequences of lying. He has more to lose than to gain by lying," Radomski was quoted as saying.

He also speculated on why Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, refused to answer questions in front of a grand jury about Bonds, even when it resulted in incarceration.

"I think it is money," Radomski was quoted as saying. "And you know what? If that is the case, that is fine with me. He made that decision. And Bonds did the right thing there. Then Bonds ain't that bad of a guy. And he's a smart guy, at least. And he looked out for his guy."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.