Lawyers for Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s home-run record holder, asked a federal judge to throw out his conviction for obstructing a federal probe of steroid use by professional athletes or order a new trial.
There was no crime in the slugger’s 146-word answer to a grand jury about whether his trainer ever gave him anything that required an injection with a syringe, in which he spoke about being a “celebrity child” who didn’t “get into other people’s business,” his lawyers told U.S. District Judge Susan Illston at a hearing today in San Francisco.
Dennis Riordan, Bonds’s attorney, said the former San Francisco Giants outfielder took about 75 seconds to respond to prosecutors’ direct question and eventually answered “no.” He said upholding the conviction would mean that a defendant could face five years in prison simply by taking 75 seconds to provide a direct answer to the grand jury.
“It’s really preposterous to say there was evasion,” Riordan told Illston, who ended the hearing without issuing a ruling.
Bonds, 47, was convicted in April by a federal jury in San Francisco of obstructing a U.S. probe of steroid use by professional athletes. In a response of about 130 words, Bonds didn’t say yes or no when asked if his trainer Greg Anderson ever game him anything “that required a syringe to inject yourself with.”
He responded that he “only had one doctor touch me” and he didn’t talk baseball with his trainer or “get into other people’s business.” Bonds 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 could have answered yes or no, “but instead went on this exploration of his relationship with Greg Anderson” and engaged in “rambling that the jury found was given to evade,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Jean Chan said at today’s hearing.
Bonds’s eventual answer of “no” to the question was untruthful “in light of all the evidence at trial,” including testimony from his former personal shopper who said she saw Bonds receiving an injection from Anderson, said Chan.
‘Totality’ of Evidence
Riordan said other evidence shouldn’t be weighed in deciding whether Bonds’s answer to the specific question about a syringe injection was evasive. Illston disagreed.
“I’m obliged to view the totality of the evidence,” Illston told Riordan. “I don’t think it’s fair to say, just focus on the one statement. It seems to me we need to look at this in the context of all the evidence in this 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, didn’t take human growth hormone and didn’t receive injections by Anderson. A mistrial was declared on those counts.
Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record of 755 career home runs in August 2007. He was indicted in November of that year for allegedly lying to a 2003 grand jury about steroids use. He was the first Major League ballplayer to be charged in a years-long federal probe of steroid use in professional sports.
Bonds’s attorneys said at trial that he truthfully testified that he received performance-enhancing substances from Anderson without knowing what they were because the drugs were new at the time and Anderson told him one was flaxseed oil.
The case is U.S. v. Bonds, 07-00732, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).