U.S. District Court
Prosecutors rested their perjury case against Barry Bonds today after the judge refused to let the jury hear a secret tape of the slugger’s ex-business manager and his surgeon discussing the BALCO steroids raid.
In more than two weeks of trial, the government called more than a dozen witnesses – baseball players, doping scientists and onetime Bonds confidants – in an effort to prove that the former Giants star lied when he told a grand jury in 2003 that he had never knowingly used banned drugs.
Bonds pleaded not guilty to four charges of lying under oath and one charge of obstruction of justice.
After prosecutor Matthew Parrella said the government had no more witnesses, lead defense lawyer Allen Ruby told Judge Susan Illston, “If Mr. Bonds testifies, it will be tomorrow.” He was smiling when he said it.
Prosecutors wrapped up their presentation to the jury by having court personnel read the transcript that is at the heart of the case – Bonds’ December 2003 testimony before the grand jury that investigated the sports steroids scandal at the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative in Burlingame.
In three hours of sparring with prosecutors, Bonds repeatedly denied using banned drugs.
He said his weight trainer, Greg Anderson, had never given him a steroid, and said he had never gotten an injection from anyone except a physician. At another point, he said he had never received human growth hormone from Anderson.
Further, he said that before 2003 Anderson had never provided him with “anything” other than vitamins. The answer came in response to queries about BALCO’s designer steroids, “the cream” and “the clear.”
Bonds was charged with a felony for each of those statements.
Prosecutors contend that Anderson gave Bonds both injectable drugs and BALCO steroids. Bonds said he thought he was getting only flaxseed oil and arthritis balm from the trainer. The judge ordered Anderson imprisoned for contempt of court because he refused to testify in the trial.
Late Tuesday, the judge said she was inclined to pare back the government’s evidence some more. She said she was thinking of throwing out testimony from Bonds’ ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Bell, suggesting that Bonds had suffered atrophy of his testicles. The judge said the government hadn’t sufficiently proved that occurred or that it was a side effect of steroid use.
The judge also said she was likely to cut more passages from a 2003 tape of Anderson in the Giants clubhouse discussing the undetectable drugs he said he was giving Bonds. That’s because it is a “close question” whether the BALCO designer steroid THG, also known as "the clear," was illegal in 2003, she said.
She also said she was likely to drop the count of the indictment referring to whether Anderson provided Bonds with “anything” prior to 2003. The only evidence in the trial that ties Bonds to the use of BALCO drugs is from 2003, she said.
The prosecutors urged her to reconsider. The judge said she would rule tomorrow.
Earlier today, the judge excluded from evidence a secret tape of a 2003 discussion about Bonds and steroids that involved the slugger’s former business manager, Steve Hoskins, and his surgeon, Dr. Arthur Ting.
The judge said the recording, which the government said was discovered Sunday night, was “barely intelligible.” The judge also said that the last-minute discovery of the tape made her concerned that its use would violate Bonds’ right to a fair trial.
Hoskins, Bonds’ business manager until a bitter 2003 breakup, testified earlier in the trial 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 Ting, Bonds’ orthopedist.
He testified he had secretly taped one such discussion, but couldn’t find the recording.
When the government called Ting to the witness stand, the doctor flatly denied he had ever talked to Hoskins about Bonds and steroids. Hoskins told the government he had found the recording Sunday night on the flip side of a used cassette. The government wanted to use it as evidence that Hoskins had told the truth.
A transcript was filed with the court. It showed that – despite Ting’s denials on the witness stand – the physician had discussed Bonds and steroids with Hoskins.
In the conversation, Hoskins described the September 2003 federal raid on BALCO and said BALCO records might implicate Bonds in steroid use, the transcript shows.
Most of Ting’s remarks on the recording are unintelligible, according to the transcript. But it indicates he participated in the conversation, referring to Bonds by his first name and at one point acknowledging that he knew BALCO proprietor Victor Conte, who later pleaded guilty to steroid dealing.