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Bonds prosecutors get more time to decide on new trial

U.S. government

A federal judge rejected a demand by Barry Bonds’ attorneys today to force prosecutors to reveal whether they intend to retry the home run king for perjury.

Bonds was found guilty in April on one count of obstruction of justice for testimony he gave to a grand jury investigating a steroids ring in 2003. The jury deadlocked on three perjury counts, and U.S. District Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial on those.

Initially, prosecutors had planned to announce by today whether they would retry Bonds for allegedly lying to the grand jury about knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs. But in recent court filings, they argued they deserved more time because after the trial, defense attorneys filed a motion to toss the obstruction conviction and have a new trial.

At this morning’s hearing, Illston agreed with prosecutors that the issue needed to be resolved before they made a decision on retrying the other counts.

“I don’t think it's sensible to set a retrial on the mistried counts until we know whether there’s going to be a need for a trial on the convicted count,” she said.

Illston appeared frustrated with defense attorney Allen Ruby when he inquired about the government’s plan on the mistried counts.

“You can ask them directly anytime you like Mr. Ruby,” she said. “It seems to me manifestly unlikely that a decision like that is going to be made until a decision on the motion (to acquit) is made. Don't you think that's right?”

Bonds watched the exchange calmly from his seat next to his attorneys.

Defense attorneys have argued that the obstruction conviction, in which jurors found Bonds intentionally evaded a question about whether his trainer ever injected him, should be thrown out.

Instead of directly responding to the question, Bonds gave a rambling answer about how he had been a “celebrity child.”

Defense attorneys argued that Bonds answered the question directly in other parts of his testimony and that the statement was truthful.

“Unauthorized rambling is not a federal crime,” the attorneys wrote in the filing.

The government will file a brief on the acquittal issue by July 27, and attorneys will appear in court for oral arguments on Aug. 26. After that, prosecutors will decide whether to retry the perjury counts.

Correction: An earlier version of this post gave an incorrect date for the deadline by which prosecutors must file a brief on the acquittal issue. The correct date is July 27.

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