A lawyer for home-run champion Barry Bonds urged a federal appeals court in San Francisco today to overturn the former San Francisco Giants outfielder’s obstruction-of-justice conviction.
Bonds, 48, was convicted in a federal trial in San Francisco in 2011 of obstructing justice in his 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating a Burlingame laboratory’s sales of performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes.
As part of its verdict, the trial jury found that Bonds was evasive when he gave a rambling statement in response to a question about whether his trainer, Greg Anderson, ever gave him anything to inject himself with.
The jury deadlocked on three other charges that Bonds lied in his answers to other questions, and prosecutors later dismissed those counts.
In the statement found to be evasive, Bonds said he was the “celebrity child” of a baseball-playing father and that he didn’t talk to Anderson about business matters.
In arguments before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today, defense attorney Dennis Riordan argued that the conviction should be tossed out because a 2007 indictment did not specifically include that statement.
“Barry Bonds was convicted on the basis of a simple statement of 52 words primarily about his relationship with his father,” Riordan said.
The indictment’s failure to give notice of the statement “is a dagger in the heart of this conviction,” Riordan argued.
Federal prosecutor Merry Jean Chan argued that the statement was just one example of a general strategy of evasion in which Bonds was trying to hide his alleged use of steroids during his grand jury testimony on Dec. 4, 2003.
“The indictment very clearly targeted the defendant with obstructive activity on a particular date,” Chan told the court.
“The government has all along maintained that his testimony was a single course of conduct littered with obstructive examples” such as the statement identified by the trial jury, she said.
The circuit judges took the case under submission at the close of 35 minutes of arguments and did not indicate how they will rule. The judges have no deadline for issuing a written ruling.
Bonds did not attend the hearing at the ornate circuit courthouse at Seventh and Mission streets.
Bonds was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston to one month of home confinement and 250 hours of community service, but Illston has delayed the commencement of the sentence until Bonds completes his appeal.
While playing with the Giants from 1993 to 2007, Bonds set the Major League Baseball career home-run record of 762, as well as the single-season record of 73.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News