Barry Bonds, Major League Baseball’s home-run record holder, lost a bid to overturn his conviction for obstruction of justice in a government probe of steroid use by athletes, according to a court filing.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco issued a ruling yesterday denying the slugger’s request for an acquittal and refusing to grant a new trial.
Illston rejected Bonds’s argument that there was no crime in his 146-word answer to a grand jury about whether his trainer Greg Anderson ever gave him anything that required an injection with a syringe. His attorney, Dennis Riordan, said at an Aug. 25 hearing before Illston that the former San Francisco Giants outfielder took about 75 seconds to respond to prosecutors’ direct question and eventually answered “no.”
“Defendant repeatedly provided nonresponsive answers to questions about whether Anderson had ever provided him with injectables, resulting in the prosecuting attorneys asking clarifying question after clarifying question, and even once resulting in one prosecutor interrupting another who was about to move on to a new topic in order to clarify defendant’s mixed responses,” Illston wrote in her ruling. “An evasive answer about an issue material to the grand jury is not necessarily rendered immaterial by the later provision of a direct answer, even if that direct answer is true.”
Convicted in April
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. 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.
Riordan didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on the ruling after regular business hours.
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.
In the grand jury proceedings, Bonds didn’t say yes or no when asked if Anderson ever gave 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.”
At the Aug. 25 hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Jean Chan argued that 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.”
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, Chan said.
The case is U.S. v. Bonds, 07-00732, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).