The legal saga of former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, accused eight years ago of perjury and obstruction in a steroids investigation, came to an official end today.
Federal prosecutors today informed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that they will not appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for review of a 9th Circuit ruling overturning Bonds’ sole conviction.
Lawyers from the office of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a filing that the U.S. solicitor general, who determines whether to appeal federal cases to the Supreme Court, decided not to appeal the circuit court decision.
The prosecution decision not to appeal further means that Bonds is cleared of all charges.
“The finality of today’s decision gives me great peace,” Bonds said in a statement.
“As I have said before, this outcome is something I have long wished for. I am relieved, humbled and thankful for what this means for me and my family moving forward,” Bonds said.
Bonds, who will turn 51 on Friday, was accused in a 2007 indictment of perjury and obstruction of justice in 2003 before a grand jury that was investigating the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs to athletes by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
After lengthy proceedings that included three revisions of the indictment, Bonds was convicted at a federal trial in San Francisco in 2011 of one count of obstruction of justice. The jury deadlocked on three other charges of false statements to the grand jury, and prosecutors later dismissed those counts.
Bonds and his defense team of six lawyers appealed, first to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit and then to a rarely convened 11-judge panel of the same court.
Although the smaller panel upheld the conviction in 2013, the expanded panel overturned the obstruction conviction by a 10-1 vote on April 22 of this year.
The court said that prosecutors hadn’t proved that Bonds obstructed justice by giving the grand jury a rambling response in which he described himself as the “celebrity child” of a baseball-playing father.
The response was in answer to a question as to whether his trainer, Greg Anderson, had ever given him anything to inject himself with.
Bonds has already served his sentence of one month of home confinement and 250 hours of community service.
Bonds is the only one of 11 people charged in the BALCO case left without a conviction. The other defendants, who included athletes, Anderson and other trainers, BALCO officials and a chemist, were charged with either illegal distribution of drugs or lying before the grand jury, and pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial of various charges.
Bonds played with the Giants from 1993 to 2007 and during that time set the Major League Baseball career home run record of 762, as well as the single-season record of 73 in 2001.
In his 2003 testimony, Bonds admitted to the grand jury he had taken substances known as “the clear” and “the cream” from Anderson but said he thought they were flaxseed oil and arthritis ointment.
The substances were later identified as so-called designer steroids that had been engineered to be undetectable.
The “celebrity child” statement at issue in the appeal was one of seven responses identified by prosecutors during Bonds’ trial as possible examples of his alleged obstruction of justice in his 2003 grand jury testimony.
The trial judge, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, told jurors they must agree on at least one statement as an example in order to convict him, and they chose that statement.
Bonds’ lawyers argued in the appeal that he wasn’t given notice of that statement in an indictment, and that he answered the question directly three times a few seconds later, denying that Anderson gave him injectable drugs.
The 10 appellate judges in the 9th Circuit majority said in April that there was insufficient evidence that Bonds’ allegedly misleading statement was material, or relevant, to the probe and thus an obstruction of justice.
The court said Bonds’ conviction must therefore be set aside and that he could not be retried on that charge.
Over the years of the prosecution of the case, the revised indictment against Bonds at one point contained 14 charges of false statements as well as the obstruction charge.
The case was whittled down as prosecutors voluntarily dismissed some of the charges and Bonds’ defense attorneys won the dismissal of other counts.
In his statement, Bonds thanked supporters who wished him well during the case, and added, “I’d also like to thank my outstanding legal team for their continued work on my behalf.”
Julia Cheever, Bay City News