barry-bonds.jpgEight years after he testified before a grand jury investigating steroid sales, home-run champion Barry Bonds will be sentenced by a federal judge in San Francisco today for obstructing justice before that panel.

Bonds, 47, was convicted in the court of U.S. Judge Susan Illston in April of obstructing justice by answering evasively before the grand jury on Dec. 4, 2003, when asked whether his trainer, Greg Anderson, ever gave him anything that required a syringe to inject himself with.

Bonds gave the panel a rambling answer in which he described himself as the “celebrity child” of a baseball player father and said, “I just don’t get into other people’s business.”

The federal grand jury was investigating the distribution of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes by the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.

The obstruction charge was the only count on which the former San Francisco Giants outfielder was found guilty.

The trial jury deadlocked on three other counts in which he was accused of lying to the grand jury when he said he never knowingly took steroids or human growth hormone and never was injected by Anderson.

Prosecutors later dropped those three counts.

But the federal attorneys have told Illston the lone conviction deserves “a significant jail sentence” because it was a “corrupt, intentional effort to interfere” with the grand jury’s BALCO probe.

Prosecutors have asked Illston to impose a sentence of one year and three months in prison, while Bond’s five defense attorneys have urged a penalty of probation and community service with no jail time.

The defense contends a probation sentence would be consistent with the penalties given to three other sports figures–track coach Trevor Graham, cyclist Tammy Thomas and football player Dana Stubblefield–who were convicted of lying or obstructing justice in the BALCO investigation.

All were sentenced by Illston to either probation or a combination of probation and home detention.

Prosecutors say Bonds should be compared instead with track star Marion Jones, who was sentenced by a federal judge in New York to six months in prison for lying in both the BALCO investigation and in a separate probe of a fraudulent check-cashing scheme.

Bonds will be sentenced by Illston at the Federal Building courthouse at 11 a.m.

While playing for the Giants, Bonds set the Major League Baseball records for single-season and career home runs. He achieved the single-season record of 73 in 2001 and the career championship of 762 during his last season in 2007.

Later that year, on Nov. 15, 2007, Bonds was indicted in the first of four versions of an indictment accusing him of perjury and obstruction of justice.

At one point, when the second version of the indictment was issued in 2008, Bonds faced a total of 14 counts of false statements and one count of obstruction of justice.

But defense attorneys won rulings from Illston dismissing some of the counts and prosecutors voluntarily dropped others, leaving four charges, and eventually one conviction, in the trial.

Bonds is one of 11 people who were accused of either illegally distributing drugs or lying in connection with the BALCO probe. The others all pleaded guilty or were convicted of various charges. He is the last to be sentenced.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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