U.S. District Court
Barry Bonds was a “secret” steroid user, and the secret of his drug use “was so powerful” that it impelled the former Giants star to lie under oath about it, a federal prosecutor charged.
But Bonds’ defense lawyer countered that the government had brought the jury “zero evidence” that anything Bonds told a grand jury in 2003 actually disrupted the federal investigation into the BALCO steroid scandal.
He called the federal investigation of baseball’s home run champion “very wrong” and “an effort to demonize Barry Bonds.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Nedrow and lead defense lawyer Allen Ruby gave sharply contrasting views Thursday of the evidence in Bonds’ perjury trial.
After a day of closing arguments, federal Judge Susan Illston turned the case over to the jury of eight women and four men, instructing them to elect a foreperson. Deliberations were to begin Friday.
Bonds is accused of lying under oath and obstruction of justice, all for his testimony before the grand jury that was investigating suspected steroid dealing at the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative in Burlingame.
In the fall of 2003, more than 30 elite athletes who had been BALCO customers –stars of NFL football and Olympic track and field as well as baseball – were summoned to testify in the secret proceeding.
Almost all admitted that they had used the BALCO designer steroids called “the cream” and “the clear.”
But Bonds insisted that he had never knowingly used banned drugs, saying his trainer, Greg Anderson, had supplied him only with substances he thought were flax seed oil and arthritis balm. The slugger was indicted four years after the testimony, and shortly after he set baseball’s all-time home run record. He has pleaded not guilty to four felony charges.
Prosecutor Nedrow emphasized that Bonds had been given immunity from prosecution on drug charges before he testified before the grand jury.
“All he had to do was tell the truth,” the prosecutor said. But he said Bonds lied anyway hoping to protect his secret use of “anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormone as part of his training regimen.”
The prosecutor continued: “The secret was important enough that he didn’t want his father to hear about it, he didn’t want his employer, the Giants, to find out about it…The secret led him to false testimony that is implausible on its face.”
Nedrow said the government had presented ample evidence of Bonds’ drug use. A re-test of a 2003 urine sample submitted by Bonds to Major League Baseball showed the slugger was using “the clear,” the prosecutor said. A 2003 recording secretly made in the Giants’ clubhouse captured trainer Greg Anderson’s voice as he described the banned drugs he said he was giving to Bonds, and a former personal shopper said she saw Anderson inject Bonds in the stomach in 2002.
But defense lawyer Allen Ruby countered that prosecutors had done such a poor job they hadn’t even established that the evidence the grand jury sought from Bonds was “material,” or relevant, to the federal probe of BALCO. That’s important, Ruby said, because to find Bonds guilty, the jury must conclude that he knowingly lied in ways that could have interfered with the investigation.
After Ruby, cross-examination specialist Cristina Arguedas took over for the defense, telling the jury that virtually all of the government’s case was “unworthy of belief.”
She contended that the government had a “conflict of interest” in its relationship to key prosecution witness Steve Hoskins, Bonds’ former business manager. In 2003, Bonds had complained to the FBI that Hoskins was stealing sports memorabilia and selling it. She claimed that when the BALCO scandal broke, prosecutors dumped the memorabilia case so they could use Hoskins against Bonds.
“Are they going to treat Barry Bonds as a victim of theft and fraud from Stevie Hoskins, or are they going to treat Stevie Hoskins as a witness when they go after the very high-profile Barry Bonds?” Arguedas asked. Hoskins would say anything to get back at Bonds, the lawyer claimed, and so his testimony should be disregarded.
She also urged the jury to ignore the recording of Anderson. She said it was unreliable because Hoskins made the secret tape, and because the government didn’t write proper reports about how they obtained it. Likewise, the lawyer said the testimony about Bonds’ injection was suspect because it came from Hoskins’ sister, Kathy Hoskins.
At the end of the day prosecution team leader Matthew Parrella gave a brief rebuttal. He said his witnesses were truthful, and he accused the defense lawyers of ducking the real issue in the case.
“They never argued that Barry Bonds never took steroids,” Parrella said. “They never said, ‘My client is not a steroid user, he didn’t use anabolic steroids.’ Do you think they forgot? I don’t think so.”