April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Baseball player Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstructing justice while avoiding a perjury conviction after jurors couldn’t decide whether he knew he was taking steroids, the panel’s foreman said.
Bonds, who holds the Major League Baseball record for most career home runs with 762, was convicted yesterday of one of four charges against him by an eight-woman, four-man federal jury. Bonds, 46, was first indicted in 2007, the last year he played for the San Francisco Giants.
A mistrial was declared on three perjury counts after a three-week trial. 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, Greg Anderson.
“A positive test showed he used steroids but it did not prove he knew it,” said the foreman, Fred, who like other jurors gave only a first name as they spoke after the verdict yesterday.
Bonds’s lawyers said yesterday in court they will ask U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to set aside the conviction for lack of evidence and request a new trial. The case was continued to May 20. No sentencing date has been scheduled.
Bonds faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the obstruction conviction. Prosecutors said they will decide soon whether to retry the former Giants left fielder on the perjury charges.
Eleven of 12 jurors voted to convict Bonds of lying about never receiving an injection from Anderson, the foreman said.
Nyisha, the single holdout juror on the injection charge, said she “needed more” evidence, while declining to go into detail. On the steroids count, she said: “We did go back and forth. But the question was, did Barry Bonds know that was steroids?”
The panel would have liked to have heard from Anderson, said another juror, Jessica. Anderson refused to testify at trial and was jailed for contempt of court by Illston for the duration of the proceeding.
“It would have shed light on things,” said Jessica. “But he wasn’t there so we had to use what we had.”
Eight jurors wanted to acquit Bonds of lying when he said he never knowingly took steroids and nine wanted to acquit him for saying he didn’t take human growth hormone, said Steve, a juror who is a 60-year-old resident of Antioch, California.
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.”
Yes or No
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 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.
Bonds’s lawyers said he was truthful and told the grand jury that he received performance-enhancing substances from Anderson without knowing what they were because they were new at the time and because Anderson told him one was flaxseed oil.
“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,” Allen Ruby, Bonds’s attorney, said in a news conference outside the courthouse, with Bonds at his side.
‘Nothing for Me’
“Nothing for me to celebrate,” the slugger 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.
Bonds, 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.
“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 yesterday’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.”
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 will.
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.
Manny Ramirez, a 12-time All-Star who is 14th on the career home run list, retired six days ago after baseball officials told him of an unspecified doping-related “issue.”
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.
The case is U.S. v. Bonds, 07-00732, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).
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