SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — Federal prosecutors on Wednesday dropped all the remaining charges against Barry Bonds, days after a judge upheld the slugger’s conviction on an obstruction of justice count.
The U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco filed court papers informing U.S. District Judge Susan Illston it was dismissing the three charges of making false statements still pending against Bonds, Major League Baseball’s all-time home runs leader. A jury deadlocked on the three counts at Bonds’ trial in April.
The deadline for prosecutors to start the process for a retrial on those charges was about 30 days away. Now, Bonds won’t face a new trial on accusations that he lied to a grand jury back in 2003 when he testified that he never knowingly received steroids or human growth hormone from trainer Greg Anderson, and that no one other than his doctors ever injected him with anything.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Parrella declined comment.
Bonds’ lawyer, Allen Ruby, said that his client’s legal team was focused on the slugger’s sentencing hearing in December. Ruby declined to discuss whether Bonds intended to appeal the obstruction conviction.
Bonds was among the biggest stars convicted as a result of an investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroids ring, a probe headed by federal agent Jeff Novitzky that also ensnared Olympic gold medal-winning track star Marion Jones.
Bonds was initially charged in November 2007 with lying to the grand jury during a December 2003 appearance when he testified that his personal trainer misled him into believing the designer steroids and performance enhancing drugs he was taking were legal supplements.
A majority of jurors this year voted to acquit him on charges he lied when he denied knowingly taking steroids and human growth hormone. The jurors voted 11-1 to convict him for denying that anyone other than his doctor ever injected him.
Bonds faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, though federal guidelines recommend a sentence of 15 to 21 months.
Illston, who upheld the obstruction count last Friday, also is free to impose a lesser sentence, which she did after two previous trials involving a champion cyclist and track coach each convicted of lying in cases that grew out of the BALCO probe. Cyclist Tammy Thomas and track coach Trevor Graham each received sentences of house arrest.
Bonds, Thomas and Graham were the only three BALCO figures who pleaded not guilty and went to trial on charges of lying about performance enhancing drugs.
Prosecutors on Wednesday dismissed the counts “without prejudice,” meaning they could reinstate the charges before the statute of limitations expires. However, that’s a routine legal maneuver when dismissing criminal charges and dropped cases are rarely reinstated.
Attorney William Keane, who represented Thomas, said it’s highly unlikely prosecutors will reinstate the charges, and that he expects Bonds won’t go to prison even though prosecutors are expected to argue for that.
“Given that the core part of the case hung and given the other sentences in the BALCO cases,” Keane said, “Bonds has a reasonably good chance of avoiding prison time.”
Peter Keane, a Golden Gate University law professor, said he was “a little surprised” that prosecutors decided to drop the charge on which jurors voted 11-1 to convict Bonds.
“But at the end of the day, he’s a convicted felon and was shown to have obstructed a federal grand jury,” Keane said. “The prosecutors won.”
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