- Associated Press - Sunday, April 3, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Over two weeks, prosecutors methodically worked to build a credible case that Barry Bonds lied to a federal grand jury in 2003 when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

Then, on Thursday, prosecutors called Bonds‘ orthopedic surgeon to the stand.

They regretted it almost immediately.

Legal analysts, trial watchers _ even attorneys on both sides _ all seemed to agree that Dr. Arthur Ting’s testimony was disastrous for the government’s case against the greatest home-run hitter in major league history and a symbol of baseball’s so-called steroids era. The question now is whether the prosecutors can still get a conviction when the trial goes to the jury, which could happen this week.


Ting hurt the prosecution because he directly and repeatedly contradicted the government’s star witness, former Bonds business partner Steve Hoskins.

In the first week of the trial, Hoskins testified that the doctor told him a 1999 elbow injury Bonds sustained was caused by steroid use. But Ting denied saying that. Ting also denied Hoskins‘ claim that the two had 50 conversations about Bonds‘ alleged steroid use. Ting denied having even one such discussion.

Federal prosecutor Jeffrey Nedrow conceded soon afterward, in an exchange with U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, that Hoskins was “impeached heavily.”

Ting was one of the last witnesses the government planned to call. Observers said prosecutors were making good headway with the jury until then.

“With any trial it’s always the last impression that is the most important,” Robert Mintz, a prominent Newark, N.J., defense attorney, said in a phone interview. Mintz and many others have been following the trial closely as it is covered by dozens of reporters who file frequent updates throughout the court day.

Like other experts, he reached for a sports analogy to make sense of the trial’s sudden and dramatic momentum shift.

“It was the sports equivalent off coughing up the ball on the 5-yard line,” said Mintz, a federal prosecutor before going into private practice. “Suddenly, the other team has a chance to win.”

Ting’s testimony obviously buoyed Bonds‘ team. Ting was even seen shaking the hands of a member of the former slugger’s entourage sitting in the first row of the courtroom after he stepped down from the witness stand.

Bonds lead attorney Allen Ruby, usually gruff and deadly serious outside court during the trial, had a smile for reporters during a break in the proceedings after Ting’s testimony. The usually inscrutable Bonds, too, had a wide grin at the end of the trial day Thursday.

When the trial resumes its critical third week Monday, the government’s last witness _ anti-doping expert Dr. Don Catlin _ is scheduled to finish testifying. Court staff is expected to read a transcript of Bonds‘ grand jury testimony from December 2003, and then the defense will get to call its witnesses.

Bonds‘ lawyers still have work to do. Hoskins wasn’t the government’s only witness.

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