Home run king Bonds guilty of obstruction
SAN FRANCISCO—A jury convicted US home run king Barry Bonds of obstruction of justice Wednesday for giving misleading and evading testimony in a 2003 steroid probe.
Jurors were deadlocked on three additional counts of perjury, and US District Judge Susan Illston declared a mistrial on those.
Prosecutors did not immediately indicate whether they will seek to retry Bonds on those counts.
Bonds is one of the biggest names to be caught up in the BALCO steroid distribution scandal.
The former San Francisco Giants Slugger broke Hank Aaron’s revered record for career home runs with his 756th homer on August 7, 2007, going on to take his career tally to 762
He also owns baseball’s single-season records for home runs with 73 in 2001.
The jury’s partial verdict came after almost four days of deliberations, which followed three weeks of testimony that occasionally became emotional or combative, as when Bonds’ ex-girlfriend testified that he became prone to fits of steroid-related rage.
In one of the most dramatic courtroom moments, Kimberly Bell told jurors that Bonds threatened to “cut my head off and leave me in a ditch” and “cut out my breast implants because he paid for them.”
Several well-known Major League players also made appearances, giving testimony about drug use.
Ex-New York Yankee Randy Velarde matter-of-factly told jurors about Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson, injecting him with human growth hormone in a series of parking lot meetings in 2002.
Marvin Benard, a former San Francisco Giants teammate of Bonds, explained he started getting drugs from Anderson after the trainer advised him against taking veterinary steroids he bought in Mexico.
Prosecutors had hoped jurors would infer that Anderson gave Bonds the same drugs and find Bonds guilty of lying when he denied knowingly taking anabolic steroids and human growth hormone.
Bonds was also accused of lying when he denied to the 2003 grand jury that Anderson had ever injected him.
Bonds appeared calm as the verdict was read in court.
His case is the fourth BALCO-related perjury case to result in a conviction. BALCO is the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, the Northern California steroids mill that distributed then-undetectable steroids to elite athletes.
While federal sentencing guidelines are 15 to 21 months, US District Judge Susan Illston has been reluctant to impose prison time in related cases.
Olympic cyclist Tammy Thomas received house arrest after being convicted of lying about steroids to a grand jury.
Athletics coach Trevor Graham was also confined to his home after he was found guilty of misleading investigators.
Sprint star Marion Jones, sentenced by a different federal judge, is the only athlete so far to receive prison time for lying during the probe.
Although it’s unlikely Bonds will end up behind bars, the felony conviction could damage his chances at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
His links to Balco have long made Bonds a divisive figure among baseball fans.
Even as crowds cheered his record-breaking 756th home run in 2007, rumors of steroid use hung over the slugger. Bonds has consistently denied his late-career achievements were fueled by banned drugs.
Bonds maintains a base of deeply passionate supporters, many of whom frequented Courtroom 19 in San Francisco’s federal courthouse during the trial, often dressed in the Giants’ signature black and orange colors.
A sentencing hearing was not immediately scheduled. Bonds’ lawyers will return to court May 20 for a status hearing.
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