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Prosecutors in September dropped those charges, foregoing another trial and declaring the one conviction showed the value of the Bonds prosecution.

The government’s lead investigator, Jeff Novitzky, said Bonds first came to his attention during his weekly Monday night raids of BALCO’s trash during the summer and fall of 2002. Novitzky, who was with the Internal Revenue Service then and is now a Food and Drug Administration investigator, said he found a magazine article quoting Bonds as crediting BALCO with helping him pump up and increase his power.

Novitzky gathered more evidence connecting Bonds to BALCO during September 2003 raids of the lab and the home of Greg Anderson, Bonds‘ personal trainer at the time. Three months later, Bonds was called before the grand jury and granted immunity from prosecution so long as he testified truthfully.

Despite the jury’s mixed verdict, prosecutors still insist Bonds lied.

“The evidence at trial demonstrated that Bonds went into the grand jury with the intention of providing false statements and obstructing the grand jury’s efforts to get to the truth in the BALCO matter,” prosecutors wrote the judge last week seeking a prison sentence of 15 months for the former San Francisco Giants slugger. “Without truthful testimony, the judicial system simply cannot function properly in its mission-to get to justice.”

In recommending that Bonds serve a term of house arrest, probation and community service _ but no prison time _ the federal probation department called Bonds‘ conviction an “aberration” and cited his “significant history of charitable, civic and prior good works” as reasons for the judge to “downward depart” from federal guidelines.

The department’s report is confidential, but was cited in part by Bonds‘ lawyers last week in arguing for probation and volunteer work. Earlier this year, Bonds announced he would pay for the college education of the two children of Bryan Stow, the Giants fan who remains hospitalized after the highly publicized opening day beating in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium.

Bonds‘ lawyers quote an unidentified nurse writing in a letter to Illston that Bonds often visits sick children at the University of California, San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital. He paid for the 2009 renovation of what is now the Barry Bonds Family Foundation Playroom, which he visited in June.

Barry Bonds is a hero to us at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital,” the nurse wrote. “I consider being a character witness for Barry Bonds a privilege.”