Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s home-run record holder, was trying to keep a “powerful secret” when he denied to a federal grand jury in 2003 that he was taking steroids, a prosecutor said.
Bonds, the former left fielder for the San Francisco Giants with a $17 million a year salary, tried to play the “victim” who was “spiked” with steroids without his knowledge by his lifelong friend and trainer, and his story is “implausible on its face,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Nedrow told a jury today in his closing argument in federal court in San Francisco.
“Why would the defendant testify falsely after receiving immunity? The reason is he had a secret and it was a powerful secret -- he was using steroids,” Nedrow said. “His secret was so powerful that he couldn’t admit it and he wouldn’t admit it.”
Bonds’s attorneys said the government’s evidence was faulty, its witnesses unreliable and its prosecutors responsible for withholding information beneficial to their client, whom they tried to “demonize.”
Bonds’s lawyer, Allen Ruby, said the government presented no evidence that the slugger’s testimony mattered to the grand jury, a requirement for conviction of the perjury counts against him.
“Cagey” prosecutors never made clear to Bonds in 2003 what the panel was investigating, he said. That would leave jurors no choice but to guess about the grand jury’s work, something they are forbidden by law to do, Ruby said.
‘Tried to Intimidate’
“The government doesn’t get to do a ‘gotcha,’” Ruby said in his closing arguments. “The prosecutors clearly tried to intimidate him.”
Bonds, whose trial began March 21, is charged with three counts of perjury for allegedly lying when he told a grand jury he didn’t knowingly take steroids and didn’t receive injections from anyone other than his doctor. He also faces one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly providing evasive answers to questions about his trainer Greg Anderson, taking steroids and getting injections.
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.
Closing arguments in the trial come a day before the San Francisco Giants home opener, in which the team will raise its World Series Championship banner. The team won the title last year, three years after Bonds last played.
Nedrow pointed to the testimony of Kathy Hoskins, Bonds’s childhood friend and former personal shopper, who testified that she saw Bonds being injected by Anderson in the navel in Bonds’s bedroom in 2002.
In the bedroom, Bonds said the injection was “a little something something” for the road, “they can’t detect it, they can’t catch it,” showing his knowledge of what he was taking, Nedrow said in summarizing Hoskins’s testimony.
The prosecutor also pointed out the testimony of Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi and other baseball players who testified that they received performance-enhancing substances from Anderson, who pleaded guilty in 2005 to distributing steroids.
‘Told the Truth’
“They didn’t want to testify about these things but they came in and told the truth,” Nedrow said.
Cris Arguedas, another of Bonds’s attorneys who also spoke to the jury today, focused on government witness Steve Hoskins, Bonds’s former business partner who testified that Bonds told him he used steroids.
Arguedas said the prosecutors in the case had a conflict of interest because Bonds had gone to them with allegations that Hoskins was stealing from him. Rather than pursuing that they went after Bonds in the steroids probe, she said.
“Are they going to treat Barry Bonds as a victim of fraud or are they going to treat Steve Hoskins as a witness as they go after” the famous Bonds, Arguedas asked?
She also told the jury that Kim Bell, Bonds’s ex-mistress, acknowledged that she had lied when told a grand jury that Bonds’s testicles shrunk to half their size. An anti-doping expert testified for the government that testicular shrinkage was a side effect of anabolic steroids abuse.
Meanwhile, prosecutors defended her, Arguedas said.
“This is the person who posed for Playboy, and who went on Howard Stern,” she said, raising her voice and waving her arms. “And the government said, ‘well it was difficult for her.’ In a perjury case.”
Bonds, 46, who broke Hank Aaron’s record of 755 career home runs in August 2007, was charged in November of that year.
“He could have saved himself a lot of trouble,” Nedrow said. “He chose not to do so because he had to keep his secret.”
The jury may begin deliberations today.
The case is U.S. v. Bonds, 07-00732, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).