Roger Clemens wants the jury to know how bad a dude Brian McNamee is

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Roger Clemens’ lawyers filed a motion yesterday asking to be allowed to tell the jury just how bad a dude Clemens’ main accuser — Brian McNamee — really is.  It came in the form of an opposition to the government’s motion in limine, which is the government’s attempt to keep the jury from hearing about just how bad a dude McNamee is.  This is a really, really important motion. I’ll explain why in a second. But first, the legal setting:

The issue of whether a witnesses’ past bad acts can be mentioned comes up in tons of cases, especially criminal ones. At issue is always the same argument: one side says that just because the witness has been involved in some past shadiness doesn’t mean that what he’s saying isn’t true, so mentioning that shadiness is unfair and could unduly prejudice the jury. Underlying all of this is the notion that, hey, criminals associate with scumbags, and if every witness’ dirty laundry were aired, it would be really hard to get convictions. Let us put a bad guy on the stand so we can get a worse guy, OK?

The other side says, nope, that past shadiness goes to the witnesses’ credibility, and the jury can’t properly weigh his testimony unless they know who they’re dealing with. Sometimes the past acts are allowed into evidence (in the form of cross examination) sometimes not (the cross examiner is not allowed to say anything). It’s up to the judge.

But while this is a common fight, in the Roger Clemens case it is an extremely critical one. Indeed, the entire case likely turns on it.  Why? Because the government’s entire case is based on Brian McNamee, really, and if he is not believed by the jury — if they think he is not credible and/or generally sleazy — it’s virtually certain that Clemens will skate.

So what is it that the government doesn’t want the jury to know about Brian McNamee?

One of them we’ve talked about at length: McNamee was once questioned by police in Florida about a rape allegation. While there were never any charges filed, the police did note in their report that they believed he was lying to them.  That could be highly relevant in terms of McNamee’s credibility — if he’d lie to cops, why wouldn’t he lie to investigators, Congress or this jury? — but because the rape angle is so sensational, any information the jury could use about McNamee’s credibility could conceivably be outweighed by their visceral reaction to the context.  That will be a tough call for the judge.

But there are more.  In the motion, Clemens’ lawyers make reference to the following:

“… police misconduct at the NYPD, purported substance abuse and addiction, a conviction for driving while intoxicated, indebtedness and collection actions, tax fraud, prescription drug fraud and distribution, loan fraud, and breaking and entering.”

Some of that stuff is clearly out because it’s only possible use is to make McNamee look like a scumbag. Some of it, however, like fraud, could go to the man’s credibility and propensity to lie and/or concoct phony evidence such as syringes stored in soda cans.

The prosecution’s case in chief is currently underway and McNamee will soon take the stand, so the judge is going to have to decide all of this soon.  And given how important McNamee is as a witness, when he does, he may very well be deciding Roger Clemens’ legal fate.

(link via David Nieporent at BTF)

2017 Winter Meetings Preview

Craig Calcaterra
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL — The baseball world has descended on the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Disney World for the 2017 Winter Meetings. There’s a lot of work to be done.

The two biggest names on the market — Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton — have found new homes, but so far only 33 of baseball’s 249 free agents have signed, almost all of them minor. Still looking for a home: Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta, CC Sabathia, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Greg Holland and many, many more. In early November we ran down the top free agents, position-by-position, to help you get a jump on who is available and what your team is looking at as it seeks to fill its needs.

It’s not just players looking for homes this week, however. It’s teams looking to make up for their failures in the Ohtani and Stanton derbies. The Cardinals and Giants both went big to get Stanton and came up empty. The Giants were likewise in Ohtani, but no dice. Baseball’s worst team in 2017 is obviously willing to spend some money to improve, and now they will look elsewhere to spend it. The Red Sox weren’t in on those two, but since it’s biggest rival landed Giancarlo Stanton, GM Dave Dombrowski will no doubt be kicking the tires hard on J.D. Martinez or Eric Hosmer to try to keep pace. The Mariners acquired a lot of international pool money in their quest for Ohtani, but they could still use a starting pitcher or two, so perhaps they may look at, say, Jake Arrieta? Lance Lynn? Yu Darvish? Well, they should, but who knows if they will.

Despite the sheer number of available free agents, this is a thin free agent class in terms of talent. That means that, for a team to improve significantly, they may be better served by making a trade. The Marlins already traded Stanton, but their fire sale does not seem to be over. Could they deal the newly-acquired Starlin Castro? Christian Yelich? Marcel Ozuna? Bet on yes, and bet on any team wishing to spend prospects instead of free agent cash to take what Miami is unloading. Other potential trade candidates: Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rays starter Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors at the Swan and Dolphin. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press. This year there are six new men at the helm: Dave Martinez in Washington, Mickey Callaway with the Mets, Gabe Kapler — Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager — in Philly, Alex Cora in Boston, Aaron Boone with the Yankees and Rob Gardenhire with the Tigers. I’ll be in the scrum for a lot of these guys — they do them two at a time so I can’t see everyone — and will let you know if they say anything fun. Or if any of them slug me for saying that they’re ugly.

Outside of the transactions and the Hall of Fame stuff, we have the more mundane Winter Meetings business. Indeed, the vast majority of the people at the Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. The big one everyone is talking about this offseason is the possibility of a pitch clock.

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected are, but here’s a good place to start your research on that. If your team takes someone in the draft, the most important thing to know is that he’ll either be on the big league roster all year or he’ll have to be returned to his original team. Well, they could be stashed on the disabled list with phantom injuries so they won’t have to be returned, but no team would ever do that, would they? Perish the thought.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene down here at Disney World, bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.