Barry Bonds Asks Trial Judge To Toss Obstruction Conviction

08/25/2011 01:59 pm ET | Updated Oct 25, 2011

This article comes to us courtesy of California Watch.

By Lance Williams

As the jury described it, the verdict in Barry Bonds' trial on steroids-related perjury charges was a compromise.

One juror refused to vote to convict the former San Francisco Giants star of lying about using banned drugs, jurors said in post-trial interviews.

But the holdout agreed to join the other 11 panelists in finding baseball's home run king guilty of obstruction of justice.

And so the jury returned its muddled verdict: The members deadlocked on three charges that Bonds had lied under oath to a federal grand jury about his use of steroids. But they convicted Bonds of obstruction, saying he deliberately misled the grand jury by giving a rambling, evasive answer to a question about whether he had received injectable drugs from his trainer.

At a hearing today in San Francisco federal court, Bonds' legal team is set to argue that it's legally wrong for Bonds to stand convicted of obstructing justice when the jury couldn't agree that he told a single lie under oath.

The long-winded answer at issue in the obstruction count was literally a true statement, defense lawyer Dennis Riordan contended in legal papers.

"Unable to prove Mr. Bonds guilty of lying under oath to the grand jury, the government has convicted him of felony prolixity," Riordan wrote. "But unauthorized rambling is not a federal crime."

He asked U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to declare Bonds not guilty - or, at the very least, order a new trial.

In response, federal prosecutor Merry Jean Chan wrote that the jury had plenty of evidence to justify convicting Bonds of obstruction. By law, a statement can obstruct justice even if it's true, she said in legal papers.

It would be a surprise if the judge set aside the verdict, said Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane, who has followed issues in the case.

"She would likely leave that to the appellate courts," he said about the points the defense has raised.

In 2003, Bonds testified before the U.S. grand jury that was investigating the BALCO sports steroids scandal. He repeatedly denied knowingly using banned drugs. At one point in the session, a prosecutor asked him if his trainer, confessed steroids dealer Greg Anderson, had ever given him any substance that "required a syringe to inject yourself with."

Bonds replied:

I've only had one doctor touch me. And that's my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don't get into each other's personal lives. We're friends, but I don't - we don't sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don't want - don't come to my house talking baseball.

If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we'll be good friends, you come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don't talk about his business. You know what I mean? ...

That's what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that - you know, that - I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see.

That answer was obstruction of justice, the jury ruled - a deliberate attempt to interfere with the grand jury's probe.

Bonds still has not been sentenced. Under federal guidelines, he could be sentenced to prison, but experts believe he faces only a sentence of house arrest.

Lance Williams is an investigative reporter for California Watch, a project of the non-profit Center for Investigative Reporting. Find more California Watch stories here.

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