Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Steroids Dealer Testifies Before Grand Jury

January 16, 2009
Steroids Dealer Testifies Before Clemens Grand Jury in Perjury Investigation

WASHINGTON — Two blocks from the steps of the Capitol, where Barack Obama will be sworn in as president Tuesday, and four blocks from where Roger Clemens testified at a Congressional hearing last February, a federal grand jury met Thursday to hear evidence that could help lead to Clemens’s indictment.

The grand jury, in United States District Court, is investigating whether Clemens committed perjury when he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last Feb. 13 that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.

When Clemens and his chief accuser, Brian McNamee, testified that day, the proceedings were broadcast on national television and attended by reporters from around the country.

The scene was far different Thursday morning, with only a handful of reporters present in the courthouse when Daniel P. Butler, the deputy United States attorney overseeing the Clemens case, pushed himself in a wheelchair through the lobby. His destination was an elevator that took him to the third-floor room where the grand jury was meeting behind closed doors.

“I can’t say anything,” Butler told reporters.

Minutes later, Kirk Radomski, the convicted steroids dealer who led prosecutors to McNamee, arrived at the courthouse to testify before the grand jury. He wore a shiny black jacket with a gold zipper. He departed several hours later, escorted by a United States marshal and declining to answer questions. He did not appear to have a lawyer with him.

How much Radomski can contribute to the investigation is unclear, because he does not appear to have direct ties to Clemens. But Butler will be crucial to the proceedings.

Like the deputy United States attorneys in San Francisco who have presided over the major steroid cases in the last six years, Butler is not a political appointee. As such, he will presumably remain on the Clemens case regardless of whom the new administration selects to become the next United States attorney for the District of Columbia office.

Butler, who has been a prosecutor for more than 25 years, lost the use of his legs in 1977, when he was hit by a car while racing a bicycle. He later participated in the Paralympics as a swimmer and won a gold medal in the 50-meter butterfly at the 1996 Paralympic Games in Atlanta.

In addition to investigating Clemens, Butler is also considering whether to seek an indictment of Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada on charges that he made false statements to investigators for the same House committee that heard Clemens’s testimony. According to a person briefed on the matter, a grand jury has been convened to begin hearing evidence regarding Tejada. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his access to sensitive information.

A lawyer for Tejada did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment. In a telephone interview Thursday evening, Butler declined comment on the matter.

Like Clemens, Tejada was referred to the Justice Department by the Oversight Committee on suspicion that he made false statements about his use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The committee said that in 2005, Tejada told investigators that he had never used steroids. At the time, the target of the committee investigators was not Tejada but his Baltimore Oriole teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, who at a nationally televised hearing in March of that year insisted he never used performance-enhancing drugs. He tested positive soon afterward.

What complicated matters for Tejada was the release of the report by George J. Mitchell in December of 2007. The report linked dozens of current and former players, including Tejada, to the use of such drugs.

According to the Mitchell report, one of Tejada’s former teammates with the Oakland A’s, Adam Piatt, told investigators for Mitchell that he had provided steroids to Tejada in March 2003. Pictures of canceled checks written to Piatt from Tejada for $3,100 and $3,200 were included in the Mitchell report.

Tejada was the American League’s most valuable player in 2002 with the Oakland A’s and signed a six-year, $72 million contract with Baltimore after the 2003 season. He was traded to the Astros the day before the Mitchell report was released.

As Thursday’s grand jury proceedings unfolded, McNamee and his lawyers were preparing to travel here for a Friday meeting with Butler, although McNamee is not yet expected to testify.

But McNamee was talking elsewhere, stating in a video interview with the Web site that he believes Clemens will end up in prison for committing perjury. “I believe he’ll probably be wearing a uniform, but it will be one of those orange jump suits with a serial number on it,” McNamee said.