Barry Bonds trial begins, how it all began

Paula Duffy's picture

Federal prosecutors have finally gotten the Barry Bonds' perjury trial to court in San Francisco, with jury selection beginning today.

Bonds is charged with obstruction of justice and four counts of perjuring himself in front of a grand jury, for testimony he gave in 2003 regarding his use of steroids. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. This isn't about Bonds denying that what he took ultimately turned out to be illegal. It is focused on his level of knowledge at the time he took the substances.

What many tend to forget about the case is that Barry Bonds was never the target of the original grand jury. Instead, that designation went to the now infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) in relation to trafficking in and distributing illegal steroids.

A number of athletes were called to testify in the course of that investigation and all were given immunity from prosecution if they told the truth. Their names were obtained from the documents found at the BALCO offices. Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Marion Jones, Dana Stubblefield and others in a host of different sports were given the same deal as Bonds. We learned from illegally leaked grand jury testimony that some of them admitted use of the substances known as "The Clear" and "The Cream" while others denied taking or knowingly taking anything that wasn't lawful.

From evidence gathered in the lengthy investigation, including cooperation from people like the former president of the now defunct BALCO, Victor Conte, prosecutors got conflicting stories about who might have told the truth while testifying. Cooperating witnesses are given some incentive to talk about illegal activities if they are pleading guilty and agree to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.

Marion Jones did six months in jail after she admitted that she lied to the grand jury when she said she didn't know that the substances given to her from BALCO were anything other than flax seed oil or legal creams. Her admissions came after someone close to her finally buckled to pressure from investigators and corroborated what they had heard from Conte and others.

Barry Bonds' testimony was called into question by Conte and the slugger was initially indicted at the end of 2007. It has taken all this time to get to trial because of the inability of the prosecution and defense to agree on what evidence will be admissible against Bonds.

Decisions made by the trial judge, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston were appealed and despite the inability to present their most devastating evidence against the defendant, the prosecution plowed on to take the case to trial. That evidence is the testimony of Bonds' former trainer Greg Anderson who allegedly administered the substances and kept a drug log.

Anderson has done two stints in jail for contempt of court as a result of his refusal to cooperate with investigators and federal prosecutors and will more than likely land in jail again for the length of the trial. Because he refused to testify the prosecution cannot introduce into evidence the doping log and certain positive drug test results with Barry Bonds' name on them.

Forging ahead without their most damning evidence, the feds will introduce evidence of older blood test results from Bonds, that may not tie into the BALCO substances he took and about which he allegedly lied to the grand jury. His statements were similar to Marion Jones' about flax seed oil and not knowingly using illegal substances.

The prosecution will also call to the stand, some of Bonds' former teammates and his former mistress Kim Bell. She is expected to talk about the physical changes to his body and his rages that she claims coincided with rounds of steroid use. The defense plans to argue that their relationship was a tempestuous one and no matter what she says, she can't definitively tie his behavior to use of illegal substances. Voice mails left for her by Bonds were ruled inadmissible because they were devoid of information about the charges. They were deemed too prejudicial and without much value to prove the charges against him. None of them included any information related to use of the BALCO substances.

Judge Illston has maintained control over the case since Bonds was indicted and charged. She is tightly controlling the jury selection which is utilizing San Franciscans, many of whom still revere Bonds from his career with the San Francisco Giants. It is expected that after all issues are reviewed, a jury that believes it can be impartial will be seated. The trial is expected to last for no less than two weeks and no more than a month.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, Barry Bonds mug shot

Add new comment