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Barry Bonds’ conviction upheld by judge
Barry Bonds‘ obstruction of justice conviction has been upheld by a federal judge, who denied the home run king’s motion for a new trial or acquittal on the charge.
More than four months after the verdict and one day after hearing oral arguments, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco issued a 20-page order Friday refusing to overturn the only unanimous decision reached by the jury.
Jurors failed to reach a verdict on three counts charging the seven-time NL MVP with making false statements to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied receiving steroids and human growth hormone from trainer Greg Anderson, and when he said he allowed only doctors to inject him. Bonds was convicted of giving an evasive, rambling reply when asked whether he received drugs that required a syringe.
“Viewed in the light most favorable to the government, the record supports a finding, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the question was material to the grand jury’s investigation of BALCO and Greg Anderson for unlawfully distributing performance enhancing drugs, and that defendant endeavored to obstruct the grand jury by not answering it when it was first asked,” Illston wrote. “The conviction can be upheld if (the) defendant endeavored to obstruct justice, even if he did not succeed.”
Illston’s ruling marked a victory for federal prosecutors, who have been involved in two cases this year against former baseball stars accused of lying about the use of performance-enhancing drugs. In a Washington, D.C., court room in July, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ordered a mistrial in the case against Roger Clemens, saying prosecutors introduced evidence he had banned as prejudicial.
The decision was far from the San Francisco Giants‘ minds, with players more concerned about the pennant race than the team’s former star.
“I don’t know anything about anything,” pitcher Matt Cain said. “I haven’t paid attention, and I don’t know what half the words mean.”
Bonds was among the biggest stars convicted as a result of an investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroids ring, a probe headed by federal agent Jeff Novitzky. Novitzky also is at the forefront of a different grand jury investigation into whether seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong used drugs to get an illicit boost in his victories.
Following a 12-day trial and on the fourth day of deliberations, the Bonds jury unanimously voted that the slugger gave the grand jury an evasive answer under oath. Rather than say “yes” or “no” to the question about receiving drugs that required a syringe, Bonds responded, in part, “I became a celebrity child with a famous father.”
Bonds‘ lawyers argued that the answer wasn’t relevant to the grand jury, and that in any case he answered a question that was essentially the same later during that session.
Illston did not agree.
“(The) 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,” she wrote in her decision, issued late Friday night. “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.”
By Tammy Bruce
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