The federal judge presiding over the upcoming perjury trial of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds said today she expects to allow testimony by baseball players who allegedly received steroids from Bonds’ weight trainer.
“I’m not going to preclude the testimony related to other athletes,” U.S. District Judge Susan Illston told attorneys at a pretrial hearing in San Francisco.
Bonds, 46, is due to begin a long-delayed jury trial in Illston’s court in exactly two months, on March 21, on charges of lying to a federal grand jury in 2003 about his steroid use.
The home run champion faces 10 counts of false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. The alleged lies include statements that he never knowingly took steroids and never was injected by his trainer, Greg Anderson.
Prosecutors have said in court papers that several present and former professional baseball players, including Jason Giambi and Marvin Bernard, will testify that Anderson gave them performance-enhancing drugs.
They contend that testimony will support their claim that Bonds also received sports drugs from Anderson.
Defense attorneys had sought to bar such testimony, saying it would unfairly amount to guilt by association.
Illston’s plan to allow the testimony was a tentative ruling. She said she will issue a final written ruling at a later date.
But in another tentative ruling favoring the defense today, Illston said she plans to stand by a previous decision barring key evidence that would allegedly show that Bonds himself took steroids.
The evidence is three positive steroids tests from 2000 and 2001 that prosecutors claim are linked to Bonds and would therefore prove that he lied to the grand jury.
Illston has excluded that evidence because Anderson has refused to testify to authenticate the tests. Prosecutors allege that Anderson took urine and blood samples from Bonds to the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, to send to outside laboratories for testing.
Anderson previously spent more than a year in jail for refusing to testify before the grand jury that eventually indicted Bonds in 2007, and two years ago told the judge he will refuse to testify at a trial, even if he is again jailed for contempt of court.
Illston said she will call Anderson back to her courtroom sometime in March before the trial to ascertain whether he will again refuse to testify.
Bonds was originally scheduled to go on trial two years ago, on March 2, 2009. But the trial was abruptly halted three days before its start when prosecutors decided to appeal Illston’s ruling barring the steroids test evidence. Prosecutors lost the appeal last year.
In today’s tentative ruling, Illston said she would not allow what defense attorneys called a back-door route of introducing the evidence.
Prosecutors had argued that some information about alleged test documents seized in a raid of BALCO was needed to show the context of the 2003 grand jury’s probe of alleged money laundering and steroids distribution by BALCO.
“I do not find persuasive the government’s argument that it could use it,” Illston said.
She said prosecutors also can’t show jurors wording from Bonds’ grand jury testimony or from the indictment referring to the excluded evidence.
Bonds, wearing a dark business suit, attended the hearing, but did not speak.
Outside of court, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the case.
But lead defense lawyer Allen Ruby of San Jose took a positive slant in comments outside the Federal Building.
The potential testimony by other athletes is “not about Barry Bonds,” Ruby said.
The attorney maintained, “Everything of consequence we asked for in the motions it looks like the court agreed with.”
Ruby said that Bonds, who did not appear at the outdoor news conference, is looking forward to having a trial and getting the case resolved.
“It’s time, it’s long past time this case was submitted to a jury.
He believes in the system,” Ruby said.
Bonds set the Major League Baseball career home run record while playing for the San Francisco Giants in 2007. He also set the single-season record with 73 home runs in 2001.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News