April 13 (Bloomberg) -- Barry Bonds was found guilty by a jury of obstructing a federal probe into steroids in a verdict that a former baseball commissioner said may hurt the home-run record holder’s chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco declared a mistrial on three perjury counts after the jury failed to reach a unanimous decision on those charges. Jurors were unable to agree on whether Bonds lied when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he didn’t knowingly take steroids, and didn’t take human growth hormone or receive injections by his trainer.
Prosecutors said they will decide soon whether to retry the former San Francisco Giants left fielder on the perjury charges. Eleven members of the eight-woman, four-man jury voted to convict Bonds of lying about injections, nine jurors voted to acquit him on the human growth hormone count and eight voted to acquit on the steroids count, said the panel’s foreman.
“It will be seen by most people as affirming that Bonds was cheating and using steroids,” former Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent said of today’s verdict. “It diminishes his standing among baseball fans and historians, and it reduces his short-term prospects of getting into the Hall of Fame.”
The jury said the obstruction of justice conviction was for Bonds’s statements to the grand jury when he was asked whether his trainer ever gave him anything that “required a syringe to inject yourself with.”
‘Other People’s Business’
In a response of about 130 words, Bonds didn’t say yes or no. He responded that he “only had one doctor touch me” and didn’t talk baseball with his trainer or “get into other people’s business,” and said that’s what kept his friendship with trainer Greg Anderson going.
“I became a celebrity child with a famous father,” Bonds told the grand jury, referring to his father, Bobby Bonds, a three-time All-Star who played for eight teams including the Giants and the New York Yankees. “I just don’t get into other people’s business because of my father’s situation, you see.”
Allen Ruby, Bonds’s attorney, said there was no conviction on any charge related to steroids or human growth hormone.
“The government has sought and at least for now” won conviction against Bonds for telling “the grand jury that he was a celebrity child and for saying he was friends with Greg Anderson,” Ruby said in a news conference outside the courthouse, with Bonds at his side.
Bonds didn’t come to the microphones and stood next to Ruby. He smiled and gave a thumbs up when a few fans gathered near the crowd of reporters and said “We love you Barry.” He gave a two-fingered victory sign when someone yelled to him from a yellow school bus that drove by.
“Nothing for me to celebrate,” he said quietly, responding to a question as the news conference ended. His attorneys told Illston earlier they will seek to dismiss the conviction and ask for a new trial.
The 46-year-old slugger, who broke Hank Aaron’s record of 755 career home runs in August 2007, was indicted in November of that year. He was the first major league player to be charged in a years-long federal probe of steroid use in professional sports. He didn’t testify at trial and his lawyers didn’t put on any witnesses. Anderson refused to testify at the trial and was jailed for its duration.
Bonds’s conviction came five days after Manny Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star who is 14th on the career home run list, retired when baseball officials informed him of a doping-related problem.
Roger Clemens, a seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in his league, faces charges he lied to Congress in 2008 when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs. He has pleaded not guilty.
“This case is about upholding one of the most fundamental principles of our justice system,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco said in an e-mailed statement. “We cannot ignore those who choose instead to obstruct justice.”
Haag said her office will decide “as soon as possible” whether to retry Bonds on the remaining counts. Prosecutors said Bonds’s testimony was evasive and impeded the work of a federal grand jury that was hearing testimony about Anderson and Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a Burlingame, California, lab at the center of an investigation of steroids distribution and use in professional sports.
The maximum sentence for obstruction of justice is 10 years in prison.
Robert Talbot, a University of San Francisco law Professor, said no other athlete convicted at trial in the federal steroids investigation had received jail time and it’s unlikely Bonds would.
House Arrest, Probation
“Judges try to be consistent and so far the sentences in these cases have not been severe at all, either house arrest or probation,” Talbot said in a telephone interview.
The jury first informed the court today that it had reached a verdict, and a few minutes later said the panel had only reached a unanimous decision on one count and couldn’t agree on the other counts, Tracy Sutton, Illston’s courtroom deputy, said in the courtroom packed with reporters, lawyers and members of the public expecting a verdict to be read.
After today’s verdict, the jury foreman said: “A positive test showed he used steroids but it did not prove he knew it.”
As for the obstruction count, Bonds “was asked many times to answer questions” with a “yes or no and he didn’t,” said the foreman, who would give only his first name, Fred.
The case is U.S. v. Bonds, 07-00732, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
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