Baseball's steroid scandal
See some of the key players and those implicated in steroid use.
SAN FRANCISCO - Barry Bonds’ perjury trial was delayed indefinitely Friday after federal prosecutors notified the judge overseeing the case that they will appeal her decision to exclude key evidence from the jury.
Jury selection, which has been set to start Monday, “will not proceed until further notice,” according to a filing Friday by the clerk for U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.
Prosecutors told Illston of their intention to appeal a couple of hours after Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, said at a court hearing that he would not testify at the slugger’s perjury trial. Illston had barred prosecutors from showing the jury three positive steroid tests allegedly belonging to Bonds and other vital evidence unless Anderson took the witness stand to authenticate them.
The latest developments are another blow to the all-time home run leader’s hopes to resume his major league career. Following his indictment in November 2007, no team made an offer to sign him for 2008. If his trial had ended next month and he gained acquittal, he would have been in better position to join a team early this season.
Bonds is accused of lying to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied that he knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs.
A reluctant and annoyed Illston told lawyers earlier Friday that, in the event of an appeal, she would have little choice but to wait until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides on it.
Illston noted that 90 prospective jurors had been planning to show up to court Monday and that court staff and security personnel had been preparing for an expected crush of media and onlookers.
Bonds’ attorneys argued against postponing the trial in a court filing late Friday, saying it “will result in a waste of considerable judicial resources.”
They complained about the delay in a statement after the court called off Monday’s jury selection.
“Barry Bonds is innocent,” said a joint statement signed by three of Bonds’ attorneys. “It’s unfair to him, to the taxpayers, and to the judicial process. The government’s strategy of delay shows what little confidence they have in their own case.”
Legal analysts said the government faces long odds of winning its appeal. Appeals courts give lower courts broad discretion in deciding pretrial matters such as what evidence the jury will hear, they said.
“It’s very stupid move,” said Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane. “It is a futile act and a terrible tactical blunder.”
It’s unknown when the appeals court will decide the issue. It will soon set a schedule for both sides to file their legal arguments.
The appeal is a direct result of Anderson’s refusal to testify.
In Illston’s Feb. 19 ruling, she blocked the government from showing the jury three positive steroid tests that allegedly belong to Bonds as well as so-called doping calendars that prosecutors say Anderson maintained for the home run king. Without Anderson’s testimony, she said, the government cannot prove those things belong to Bonds.
During a September 2003 raid of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, federal investigators seized the positive test results along with 21 other blood and urine samples that tested negative. The three key tests showed positive results in 2000 and 2001 for the steroids nandrolone and methenolone, according to the government.
Prosecutors want to use all the tests to support their claim that Bonds was a knowing steroids user and frequent customer of BALCO, the center of a massive sports doping ring.
But the judge said Anderson’s testimony was crucial because he allegedly was the one who collected the urine samples and delivered them for testing.
Anderson told Illston on Friday that he would refuse to testify even if she ordered him imprisoned during the trial, which she promised to do. He already has served a year in prison for refusing to testify in 2006 before a federal grand jury investigating Bonds for perjury.
Anderson’s attorney, Mark Geragos, spoke outside the courthouse with his client at his side.
Geragos insisted that Anderson’s longtime friendship with Bonds is not the reason for his refusal to testify.
“These are prosecutors that he (Anderson) does not trust. These are prosecutors who have made certain promises and, he believes, has broken those promises,” Geragos said, without elaborating on what those promises were.
Geragos said he hopes to persuade the judge that Anderson should not be sent back to prison.
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