Barry Bonds perjury case goes to jury

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 08 2011 01:45 PM | Updated as of Apr 08 2011 09:45 PM

SAN FRANCISCO – The fate of US baseball home run king Barry Bonds was put in the hands of the jury after closing arguments in his trial on perjury charges.

In deciding whether Bonds lied to a grand jury almost eight years ago about knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, the federal court jury will consider the testimony of more than two dozen witnesses brought in over three weeks as they begin deliberations on Friday.

Bonds has pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of perjury and one felony count of obstruction of justice, all for allegedly lying to a 2003 grand jury investigating steroid use.

If convicted, Bonds could face jail time. However, US District Judge Susan Illston has not imposed jail time in similar cases stemming from the BALCO steroid distribution scandal.

In the prosecution's closing argument, Assistant US Attorney Jeff Nedrow contended that the former San Francisco Giants slugger intentionally lied to the grand jury to protect the "powerful secret" that he was using.

The famed ballplayer feared that if his use of steroids and human growth hormone became public, it would "taint his athletic accomplishments," Nedrow contended.

Bonds hit a single-season major league record of 73 homers in 2001. He broke Hank Aaron's revered record for career home runs with his 756th homer in 2007. He finished his career with 762 homers, but polarized baseball fans who considered him a dope cheat for his links to BALCO.

Defense lawyer Allen Ruby countered that Bonds' statements to the grand jury were truthful and did not disrupt the government's steroid investigation.

To convict Bonds of perjury, jurors must find that his statements were not only false but that they were "material" -- that is, that they mattered to any case the government was building.

"The government has brought you no -- zero -- evidence on an essential ingredient of this prosecution," Ruby said.

Prosecutors insisted that Bonds understood that his false statements would impede the government's investigation and that he was intentionally misleading and evasive.

"All he had to do was tell the truth," said Nedrow. "He chose not to tell the truth, and that's why he's here."

The defense team acknowledges that Bonds received then-undetectable designer drugs known as "the cream" and "the clear" from his trainer, but argued that Bonds believed the substances were actually arthritis balm and flaxseed oil.

They deny that he ever took injectable drugs.

"He took the clear and the cream but he did not know what they contained, they didn't do much for him," Ruby told jurors.

Nedrow called it "implausible" that an athlete "who makes $17 million a year having his livelihood being his body could possibly be taking these powerful drugs and not know what was in his body."

Defense lawyer Cris Arguedas also spoke to jurors during closing arguments, focusing on discrediting key government witnesses.

"The prosecution in its zeal to go after Barry Bonds will forgive anybody anything ... if that person is willing to say something bad about Barry Bonds," she said.

Kimberly Bell, Bonds' ex-girlfriend is a lying, publicity-hungry woman who committed mortgage fraud in connection with a home Bonds purchased for her, Arguedas contended.

Defense lawyer Ruby asked jurors to also discount testimony from Kathy Hoskins, Bonds' ex-personal shopper and the only witness who said she saw the slugger being injected with a drug.

Ruby said Hoskins lied about seeing Bonds' trainer inject him as part of a plot with her brother, Bonds' ex-business manager who had a bitter falling out with the star.

"Blood is thicker than water," Ruby said. "She seemed like she loved her brother, and her brother was in a bad spot."

And Arguedas maintained that the symptoms witnesses testified they observed in Bonds -- acne, bloating, increased irritability -- were caused by legal corticosteroids Bonds had been taking with a prescription.

The prosecution's argument on that point -- is demolished by the fact that he is on legal prescription drugs that give you all the same side effects -- she said.

In a final closing statement, US Assistant Attorney Matthew Parrella fired back at the defense's arguments.

He reminded jurors that Hoskins testified that she resented being dragged into the case by her brother. She told the truth about witnessing Bonds' trainer inject him in the navel, he said.

As for the corticosteroids argument, Parrella referred to testimony that Bonds at one point gained 10 to 15 pounds of lean muscle.

"That's not cortisone," Parrella said. "That's anabolic steroids."