Bonds lied, charges say

Indictment alleges perjury, obstruction in steroids probe

November 16, 2007|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN REPORTER

Baseball's home run king, Barry Bonds, was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice yesterday on charges that he lied when he told a federal grand jury that he did not knowingly take performance-enhancing drugs.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco unsealed the five-count indictment - four counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice - after a four-year grand jury investigation. If convicted on all counts, the former San Francisco Giants' slugger could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The 10-page report mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds' December 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.

Bonds, 43, has denied having knowingly used steroids.

Mike Rains, one of Bonds' attorneys, told The New York Times: "I am utterly confident that this case will absolutely dissipate when the misconduct of the government comes to the forefront in this case. Barry is innocent of the charges."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said, "I have yet to see the details of this indictment. And while everyone in America is considered innocent until proven guilty, I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely."

Though positive results on drug tests have felled many prominent athletes, including former Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro, cyclist Floyd Landis and sprinter Marion Jones, Bonds is the biggest American star to face such a charge.

"The president is very disappointed to hear this," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said yesterday. "As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly, this is a sad day for baseball."

"I think there's been an obvious suspicion all along," said Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan. "I guess he's the first big one to fall. I can't say that I'm surprised. We've been tiptoeing around the obvious for a while on this. It's a sad day."

Dr. Gary Wadler, a longtime steroid watchdog, said, "I've been very impressed with how seriously they've taken this investigation and how much work they're now putting into the steroid issue."

Journalist Jeff Pearlman, who interviewed 500 people for his 2006 biography Love Me, Hate Me: Barry Bonds and the Making of an Antihero, felt validated.

"I feel like I have a pretty good handle on this guy, and there was never any doubt about this story," Pearlman said. "His story was one of a guy who was so talented that he thought he could always get away with anything, and to see him not get away with it is oddly refreshing."

Bonds passed Hank Aaron's career home run record of 755 in August, and finished the year with 762. The San Francisco Giants announced after the season that they would not re-sign him, and Bonds is a free agent.

According to the indictment, Bonds lied when he testified that he did not knowingly use steroids given to him by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson.

Anderson, who spent most of the past year in jail for refusing to testify against Bonds, was ordered released from prison shortly after the indictment was handed up, but his attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer did not cooperate with the grand jury.

"This indictment came out of left field," Geragos said. "Frankly, I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him."

Bonds is scheduled to appear Dec. 7 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained, including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment says. The document references a positive test for "Barry B." in November 2000 and shows that Bonds denied, under oath, taking steroids in the months leading up to that date.

Bonds has not tested positive for steroid use under baseball's current testing system, which has been in place since 2005.

Bonds is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.

The grand jury testimony was part of a mound of evidence presented against Bonds in the 2006 book Game of Shadows, which intensified fan suspicions that had developed as the slugger bulked up and produced phenomenal statistics at an age when most players begin to decline.

For many, the indictment was not a surprise. In July 2006, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco announced that he was handing the investigation to a new grand jury when the previous panel's 18-month term expired. Prosecutors are typically secretive about grand jury proceedings.

Gregg Bernstein, a former assistant U.S. attorney who practices white-collar criminal defense at the Baltimore law firm Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, said indictments for perjury and obstruction of justice are not uncommon.

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