Brian McNamee

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)

Russell Martin is not a fan of the automatic intentional walk

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the Toronto Blue Jays reacts after being struck out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians during game two of the American League Championship Series at Progressive Field on October 15, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, it was announced that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule allowing for a dugout signal in order to issue an intentional walk rather than having the pitcher throw four pitches wide of the strike zone. It’s commissioner Rob Manfred’s attempt to help improve the game’s pace of play.

As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is certainly not a fan of the change.

My thing is, if they really want to speed up the game, then when a guy hits a home run, to speed up the game should a guy, just like in softball, when he hits it, should he just walk to the dugout? It’d be quicker. I’m just wondering, at what point do we just keep the game, the game? Or, how about this calculation: take all the intentional walks that were made in the last couple years and calculate – or maybe just ask to see if they have that information, to see if they really did their homework. Is it really that important to speed up the game (with this rule)? Because how many games did we play last year where we didn’t have one intentional walk? That’s something I’d like to know.

Martin also expressed concern that eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk will hurt teams’ ability to buy time for their relievers to warm up.

It’s called getting your bullpen ready so the guy doesn’t blow out his arm on the mound. Speed up the game, speed up the game.’ How about we just give guys – the human being – time to warm up on the mound after maybe something’s happened in the game? I’m not a manager, but I’m just trying to put myself in the position of a manager. OK, we’re up by one run or two runs and our bullpen’s been taxed and we’re trying to save their arms, and then the other team walks, ball gets away, guy gets to second base. When the coach visits the mound to talk to his player, it’s not like the player necessarily needs somebody to talk to him.

It’s because the guy (in the bullpen) needs time to warm up, man. It’s the same thing when you throw over to first base, like, eight times in a row. It’s not like we’re trying to keep the guy close. The guy maybe has two stolen bases in 18 years. It’s because the guy needs time to warm up. At what point does that become a problem with guys warming up in the bullpen? Sometimes it’s just strategy to give guys a little bit of time to warm up.

The Jays’ backstop then said he’d prefer if Manfred were honest about the intent behind this rule change and others which have been proposed. Martin said, “Save it. I’m tired of hearing that same lame excuse all the time. Just be honest. If they’re honest about it, we’ll get over it. But don’t hide behind the fans.”

We should be hearing from a handful of players about the new intentional walk rule in the coming days. I can’t imagine the rule is very popular among the players.

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.