SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5 / KCBS) — In a surprise move, the defense in the federal perjury trial of home-run champion Barry Bonds in San Francisco rested its case Wednesday without calling any witnesses.
“The defense rests,” attorney Allen Ruby told the jury just minutes after U.S. District Judge Susan Illston tossed out one of the five criminal counts against the former San Francisco Giants slugger.
Ruby had told Illston on Tuesday afternoon that Bonds’ attorneys
were considering calling up to six witnesses, including possibly Bonds
The jury of eight-women and four men was sent home and ordered to return Thursday to begin deliberations after hearing closing arguments and instructions from the judge.
KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:
The judge approved the request to drop one of the charges, which prosecutors made after it became clear the judge was going to rule that they failed to prove Bonds lied when he denied taking anything other than vitamins from his trainer, Greg Anderson, before the 2003 Major League Baseball season.
Anderson has refused to testify at the trial and was jailed for contempt of court until the trial ends.
Bonds admitted inadvertently taking designer steroids “the clear” and “the cream” in 2003, saying that he thought they were flaxseed oil and an arthritis ointment — but denied any use before then. None of the prosecution’s witnesses tied Bonds to use of the designer steroids, that were engineered to be undetectable, before 2003.
It was a limited victory for Bonds, 46, who still faces three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing justice in 2003 testimony before a federal grand jury investigating the distribution of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
Two counts accuse him of lying about knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs, a third charges him with lying about being injected by anyone but his doctors and the last is the catchall obstruction charge.
He faces the same punishment if convicted of any of the four charges remaining.
“The dismissal is one less bullet to dodge on the liability side,” said defense attorney William Keane, who represented track coach Trevor Graham when he was accused of making false statements. “If Mr. Bonds is convicted on one or more of the remaining counts it will not have much of an impact on his ultimate sentence.”
Legal analysts said Bonds likely faces a realistic maximum of about 15 months in prison if convicted, but likely would be sentenced to about a year of house arrest. That’s the same punishment elite cyclist Tammy Thomas received for lying to the same grand jury when she denied taking steroids.
The judge on Wednesday also ruled that the jury would be allowed to consider testimony that Bonds’ testicles shrank, which prosecutors claim is a side effect of steroid use. Bonds’ attorneys sought to bar consideration of that testimony after Bonds’ former mistress Kimberly Bell admitted that she exaggerated the degree to which Bonds’ testicles shrank when she testified before the grand jury.
The judge also turned down Bonds attorneys’ request to toss out the testimony of Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi and three other former athletes as irrelevant. None of the players testified directly about Bonds. Instead, they told the jury that Anderson supplied them with steroids and human growth hormone and detailed instructions on how to use them.
While playing for the Giants, Bonds set baseball’s single-season home-run record in 2001 and the career home-run record in his last season in 2007.
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