Home-run champion Barry Bonds won a ruling from a federal appeals court in San Francisco today that said prosecutors can’t use key evidence to try to prove charges that he lied about steroid use.
A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said by a 2-1 vote that prosecutors can’t use the results of allegedly positive steroids tests in the former San Francisco Giants slugger’s long-delayed trial on charges of lying to a grand jury in 2003.
Bonds’ trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco was abruptly halted three days before it was scheduled to begin in March 2009 while prosecutors appealed a ruling in which Illston barred the use of the evidence.
Today’s decision upheld Illston’s ruling.
The blood and urine tests allegedly linked to Bonds were arranged by the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
Prosecutors contend that Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, took samples from Bonds to BALCO to send to an outside laboratory in 2001.
But Anderson, a childhood friend of Bonds, has refused to testify against him to authenticate the samples.
The prosecutors then sought to substitute the testimony of a BALCO official to whom Anderson allegedly gave the samples. The testimony by that official, James Valente, would be secondhand or hearsay testimony.
But prosecutors contended that it should be allowed under any of several exceptions to a rule barring hearsay testimony. One exception, they claimed, was that Anderson was acting as Bonds’ agent.
But the court majority said that Bonds’ 2003 grand jury testimony showed that Bonds considered Anderson a friend, not an employee, and didn’t control Anderson’s actions.
Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder wrote, “Rather than exercise control over Anderson’s training program, Bonds testified that he had a ‘Dude, whatever’ attitude to Anderson’s actions.
“These facts make it clear that Anderson was, as the district court found, not an employee,” Schroeder wrote.
Prosecutors’ bid to use the steroids test evidence could be appealed further to an expanded panel of the appeals court or to the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Jack Gillund said, “We have no comment at this time.”
A lawyer for Bonds was not immediately available for comment.
Bonds, 45, set the Major League Baseball career home-run record
while playing for the San Francisco Giants in 2007.
He is charged with 10 counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing justice in grand jury testimony on Dec. 4, 2003.