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Bonds’s Lawyers Rest Their Case Without Calling Witnesses

Former Major League Baseball Player Barry Bonds
Former Major League Baseball player Barry Bonds arrives for the first day of his perjury trial on March 21, 2011 in San Francisco. Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Lawyers for Barry Bonds, baseball’s home-run record-holder, rested their case today without calling any witnesses, minutes after prosecutors dropped one of four perjury charges against the former San Francisco Giants player.

The jury will get the case tomorrow after prosecutors and Bonds’s lawyers present final arguments, said U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco. Prosecutors dropped one of five counts, an accusation that the ballplayer lied by saying he never took “anything” given to him by his former trainer before the 2003 baseball season.

Bonds faces three counts of lying when he told a grand jury he didn’t knowingly take steroids and one count of obstruction of justice. The jury’s verdict may affect Bonds’s chances of getting into baseball’s Hall of Fame, said Fay Vincent, who was Major League Baseball commissioner from 1989 to 1992.

“If he is convicted in any respect, that makes it very unlikely for him to get in while he’s alive,” Vincent said today in a phone interview.

Allen Ruby, one of Bonds’s attorneys, said yesterday that the defense might call Bonds, a former trainer and three other witnesses. He also said no witnesses might be called. He didn’t tell Illston today why the defense chose not to call anyone.

‘Message’ to Jury

“They haven’t proven their case at all, and there’s no need to say anything, why put him up there -- that’s the message they are trying to get across,” said Robert Talbot, a University of San Francisco law professor, in a phone interview.

Bonds, 46, who holds Major League Baseball’s career and single-season home run records, told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he never knowingly took steroids provided by his former fitness and weight trainer, Greg Anderson, and that no one other than his doctor gave him injections. Prosecutors allege those statements were false.

His lawyers say he truthfully testified that he received performance-enhancing substances from Anderson, not knowing what they were because they were new at the time.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Nedrow told Illston today, before the jury was called to the courtroom, that count four of the indictment against Bonds would be dropped. Yesterday Nedrow said that the word “anything” in the count meant any steroids, not just so-called cream, a designer steroid. Bonds’s attorneys said the charge could be misconstrued and Illston agreed.

‘Like a Milkshake’

“How could it be material to anyone if it’s ‘anything,’ like a milkshake?” Illston said.

Bonds said during his grand jury testimony, a portion of which was read to the jury yesterday, that Anderson had given him vitamins and protein shakes, as well as an ointment the trainer said was flaxseed oil.

Prosecutors previously pared back the charges against Bonds at least twice since he was first indicted in 2007.

Over objections from Bonds’s attorneys, Illston today refused to bar evidence from two government witnesses about the side effects of steroid use.

That means jurors can consider testimony by Bonds’s former mistress Kimberly Bell, who said he experienced testicular shrinkage and sexual performance problems, and Larry Bowers, an anti-doping scientist who told the jury that those were side effects of anabolic steroid abuse.

Illston scheduled a hearing for late today to meet with lawyers from both sides about her instructions to the jury.

The case is U.S. v. Bonds, 07-00732, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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