US Judge Dismisses Motion for Re-trial of Barry Bonds Case

August 29, 2011

A US federal judge has denied Barry Bonds’ plea to dismiss or retry his conviction for obstruction of justice, upholding a jury’s verdict and setting up a possible sentencing hearing for the former superstar slugger.

Judge Susan Illston issued a 20-page order Friday night that explained in detail why she was denying the motion to vacate the verdict, the only conviction against Bonds while three charges of making false declarations wound up in mistrial in his April trial before Illston in U.S. District Court.

The judge’s document did not include a sentencing date. It’s possible now that the Bonds defense team will appeal the conviction. Also, the government has yet to announce whether it will retry any of the charges that wound up in a hung jury.

A seven-time Most Valuable Player who set the single-season and career home run records during his 22-year career, Bonds was convicted of obstruction by a jury of eight women and four men, but the jury could not come to a consensus on any of three counts of making false declarations in a trial that ended April 13. The charges are based on Bonds’ 2003 testimony before the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) grand jury, in which he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

The obstruction charge centers on one statement of four from that grand-jury testimony for which the government indicted him. It was called Statement C in the indictment, and it involved Bonds being asked whether he had received injections from trainer Greg Anderson or anyone other than his doctor. After saying that he and Anderson didn’t discuss each other’s business and then talking about being a “celebrity child” as the son of late Giants star Bobby Bonds in what defense said was 75 seconds of “rambling,” Bonds eventually answered no four times to the question.

In a Thursday hearing at the same San Francisco courtroom where his trial was held, Illston heard arguments from Dennis Riordan for the defense team and Merry Chan from the U.S. Attorney’s office for about a half-hour, before saying she would get back to them with her written opinion.

At the hearing, the government contended that the trial jury correctly found that Bonds’ non-responsive answer was intended to steer the interview away from a question he didn’t want to answer.

Chan said: “It’s rambling that the jury found was done to evade giving the grand jury truthful testimony. It’s rambling that was corruptly intended to evade, mislead and to provide false testimony.”

Illston’s opinion included mention that all the individuals in the original BALCO investigation, including Anderson, pled guilty and that Bonds entered his grand-jury testimony with immunity as long as he told the truth. As she said at Thursday’s hearing, she weighed the totality of the trial evidence in making her decision. The defense had argued that was not a specific instruction she had given the jury.

In the documents filed Friday, Illston discussed the materiality of what Bonds was being asked, which suggests that he was being evasive on something that was material to the investigation for which he was being interviewed. She said, however, she did not deny the motion based on the government’s assertion that what Bonds eventually said was false.

The next steps include possible sentencing, a possible appeal from the defense and the announcement by the prosecution of whether it will attempt to retry the three counts of making false declaration.

At trial, two of the three charges of making false declarations were voted by the jury in favor of acquittal, but one count was 11-1 in favor of conviction. That was Count Two, which like the obstruction conviction had to do with questions surrounding whether Bonds received injections from Anderson. Childhood friend Kathy Hoskins provided eyewitness testimony that she had seen Anderson inject Bonds while doing her job packing Bonds’ clothes before a Giants road trip in 2002.

The maximum sentence for the obstruction charge is five years in prison, but federal sentencing guidelines and previous BALCO sentences suggest Bonds would be given house arrest and for far less time than that.