A federal judge ruled in San Francisco today that prosecutors in the perjury trial of Barry Bonds can play a secret recording that they allege shows the former baseball star’s trainer discussing his use of steroids.
Bonds, 46, is due to go on trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston on March 21 on charges of lying when he told a federal grand jury in December 2003 he never knowingly received steroids from his trainer, Greg Anderson.
The tape of a conversation between Anderson and Bonds’ former business manager, Steve Hoskins, was secretly recorded by Hoskins at the San Francisco Giants’ clubhouse in the spring of 2003.
Because Anderson has refused to testify directly about his alleged provision of sports drugs to Bonds, the tape could be a key piece of evidence in prosecutors’ attempt to prove the perjury claims.
In one part of the tape, Anderson refers to having given injections in the past to “Barry.” In another part, he refers to use of an “undetectable” material that “worked at the Olympics.”
Anderson doesn’t specifically mention steroids. But prosecutors claim that in “disguised language,” he is referring in one section of the tape to steroid injections and in the other to steroid substances known as “the clear” and “the cream.”
Illston today stood by an earlier decision in which she said the tape could be used under rules that allow such evidence when a witness is unavailable and when his previously recorded statements are against his interests.
But she said that in order to use the tape, prosecutors must lay a foundation by proving that the alleged injections and lotions were illegal at the time periods referred to by Anderson.
Proof that the substances were illegal would show that Anderson’s taped statements were against his legal interests, the judge said.
“The court emphasizes that the proper foundation must be laid outside of the presence of the jury and before either party references the conversation in any way in front of the jury,” Illston wrote.
“This includes any reference during opening statements.”
Defense attorneys have claimed in court papers that the substances were not clearly illegal at the times referred to.
They also argued that the tape’s alleged references to “the clear” and “the cream” were irrelevant as evidence because Bonds admitted to the grand jury that he took those substances in 2003, but said he said he thought they were vitamins or flax seed oil.
At an earlier stage of the case, Bonds’ lawyers did not concede that the recorded speakers were Anderson and Hoskins. But Illston noted that the prosecution and defense now generally agree that the statements were made in a 2003 conversation between Anderson and Hoskins “and that some of them were about defendant.”
Prosecutors say Hoskins, a childhood friend of Bonds, has said he made the tape because he wanted to prove to Bonds’ father that the former San Francisco Giants slugger was allegedly taking steroids.
Bonds set the Major League Baseball single-season record with 73 home runs in 2001 and reached the career record of 762 in his last season for the Giants in 2007.
He faces a total of four counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing justice in his Dec. 4, 2003, before a grand jury that was investigating sports drug distribution by the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
Illston has yet to rule on a new round of pretrial motions filed by both sides on Monday.
She will hold a hearing on those motions on March 1.
Julia Cheever 0758p02/15/11