U.S. District Court
The judge in Barry Bonds’ perjury trial refused Tuesday to let the jury hear a secret tape of the slugger’s former business manager and his surgeon discussing Bonds and steroids.
Judge Susan Illston said that the newly discovered tape was “barely intelligible” and would add little to the evidence in a trial that focuses on whether the former Giants star lied under oath about his use of banned drugs.
The judge also said she was concerned that allowing the tape, which was discovered Sunday night by prosecution witness Steve Hoskins, might violate Bonds' right to a fair trial.
A transcript of the tape was filed with the court as part of the government’s effort to get it introduced in evidence.
Hoskins, Bonds’ boyhood friend and business manager until a bitter 2003 breakup, testified that he had spent years trying to persuade Bonds to stop using steroids.
As part of that effort, he said he talked frequently about Bonds’ alleged use of steroids to Dr. Arthur Ting, an orthopedist who has performed eight operations on the former Giants star. He said he had secretly taped one of their discussions, but said he couldn't find the tape.
But when the government called Ting to the witness stand, the doctor flatly denied he had ever talked to Hoskins about Bonds and steroids.
Ting’s testimony undercut the account of Hoskins, who had emerged as an important government witness. Then, Sunday night, Hoskins said he found the tape on the flip side of a used cassette.
Bonds’ lawyers urged the judge to keep the tape out, saying it was irrelevant and hearsay.
In a filing Tuesday, Bonds’ lawyers said Hoskins’ taping of Ting was illegal, and they accused the business manager of misconduct, saying he deliberately withheld the tape because it didn’t incriminate Bonds in drugs use. Allen Ruby, lead defense lawyer, called it "the mystery tape."
The transcript of the tape showed that – seemingly in contradiction to Ting’s denials on the witness stand – the physician discussed Bonds and steroids with Hoskins in his Fremont medical office in the fall of 2003. In the conversation, Hoskins told Ting about the September 2003 federal raid on the BALCO steroid lab. He said BALCO records might implicate Bonds in steroid use.
Most of Ting’s remarks on the recording are unintelligible, according to the transcript. Often, he asked questions of Hoskins and expressed disbelief about what he is hearing. But he mentions Bonds by name several times, although the entire reference is inaudible, according to the government.
On the recording, Hoskins told Ting that BALCO has been raided and said he believes Bonds and other elite athletes will be implicated in banned drug use. Hoskins said he got a phone message from a female football player who is a friend of BALCO proprietor Victor Conte, who later pleaded guilty to distributing designer steroids. Hoskins said the caller urged him to tell Bonds and Greg Anderson, Bonds’ weight trainer, to purge their computers of information that might link them to BALCO.
Hoskins also expressed surprise that investigators knew about Bonds’ alleged uses of banned drugs.
“They raided BALCO,” Hoskins said at one point. Then, referring to BALCO proprietor Conte, Hoskins said, “You know Victor?”
“Yeah,” Ting replied.
The raid “was in the paper today,” Hoskins said, later saying, “Barry’s going to be a main player” in the case.
“But Barry’s going to,” Ting responded, and then his remarks are unintelligible.
At another point, Ting mentioned BALCO, saying “’cause Barry goes there (unintelligible) some blood work.”
Hoskins expressed surprise that Bonds’ steroid use was apparently known by many people, saying “I didn't have no clue as to what, I didn't have no clue that somebody else knew. I thought I, I knew and about five other people were around.”
Ting said, “About Bonds.”
Hoskins replied, “Yeah and I didn't know Victor.”
Ting then said, “You know they all, they all know who he is. Victor's the one who called me about (unintelligible). Bonds...“
Bonds is accused of lying under oath to the federal grand jury that investigated the BALCO scandal. He testified that he had never knowingly used banned drugs. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. On Tuesday, a transcript of Bonds' testimony was read to the jury in federal court.