WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton almost made it sound like he was doing Roger Clemens’ lawyers a favor when he ruled that they can’t call Rep. Darrell Issa as a witness.
Issa “might bury your client,” Walton warned Clemens’ lawyers. “If I was in your all shoes, I would be very loath to call him.”
And they won’t get that chance after Walton’s ruling Monday.
Issa, a California Republican, is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the panel that Clemens allegedly lied to in 2008 when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Issa wasn’t chairman at the time, and he had criticized the committee for holding the hearing on drugs in baseball. Defense lawyers hoped his testimony would help call into question the hearing’s legitimacy and sent a subpoena to the committee to try to compel his appearance as a witness.
Walton said defense lawyers would be making a “death wish” in calling Issa, after prosecutor Steve Durham pointed out the congressman’s comment after the 2008 hearing that he didn’t doubt that Clemens had perjured himself.
Lawyers for the committee had filed a motion to quash the subpoena. They said Issa’s appearance at the trial should be barred under the Constitution’s speech or debate clause, which protects elected officials from being questioned in a lawsuit about their legislative work.
In granting that motion, Walton said he didn’t have to invoke the speech or debate clause. He said that relying on Issa to make comments criticizing the hearing again on the stand amounted to speculation. The judge said that if he did allow Issa to testify, he would have to let the government call other lawmakers who supported the hearing — dragging out the trial that’s already in its eighth week.
“You’d end up with a swearing match,” Walton said.
Clemens lawyers were more interested in Issa because of his comments as a rank-and-file member of the committee in 2008 than because of his current post as chairman. Defense filings noted that back then, Issa was quoted as saying the hearings smacked of the tactics of the infamous former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who hauled people before his committee looking for Communists.
Clemens was not in the courtroom for Monday’s motions hearing.
The jury returns to the case on Tuesday, when the Clemens team continues to put on its defense. The next half-dozen witnesses it plans to call are Baltimore baseball announcer Joe Angel; Terrence Boos, a Drug Enforcement Administration chemist who testified for the government last month; former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Mike Boddicker; former New York Yankees massage therapist Rohan Baichu; forensic toxicologist Bruce Goldberger and DNA expert Marc Taylor.
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