MLB: Bonds’ lawyers pick at prosecution’s case
AP Sports Writer
SAN FRANCISCO – With prosecutors saying Barry Bonds lied about using steroids, the home run king’s lead attorney started picking at the government’s case Tuesday, attacking witnesses expected to accuse Bonds of willfully taking drugs to make him hit the ball harder and farther.
Defense lawyer Allen Ruby, his rich voice sometimes inflected with sarcasm, said in his opening statement that a former Bonds girlfriend, a former business partner and a former personal shopper only came forward against his client after the baseball star broke off relationships with them.
He also insisted Bonds testified truthfully before a grand jury in December 2003 when he said he did not know he was using a pair of designer steroids. Bonds claims his trainer told him that he was taking “flaxseed oil” and “arthritic cream.”
“I know it doesn’t make a great story. Barry Bonds went to the grand jury and told the truth and did his best,” Ruby said. “That’s not a made-for-TV story.”
On a day when federal agent Jeff Novitzky became the first witness to testify, saying Bonds’ grand jury account differed with other facts in the case, the contrast in stories and legal teams could not have been greater.
While Ruby, a high-priced, high-profile defense lawyer, spoke in a booming baritone and painted Bonds as a victim over the course of an hour, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew A. Parrella gave his 46-minute statement in a workmanlike monotone that had some jurors struggling to keep their heads up.
His two best lines drew objections from Ruby that were sustained by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.
First, Parrella called BALCO founder Victor Conte, Bonds trainer Greg Anderson and Bonds “the three Musketeers of BALCO.”
Then, Parrella said Bonds’ grand jury testimony was an “utterly ridiculous and unbelievable story.”
After the opening statements, and with the jury out of the court room, Anderson walked in and passed Bonds, who turned his head away.
Anderson repeated his long-standing refusal to testify against his childhood friend, was held in civil contempt by Illston, taken into custody by U.S. Marshals and escorted out a back door. This will be his fourth time in prison, his third for refusing to testify against Bonds, and he likely will be held until the end of the trial. The case is expected to last about a month.
Anderson also served three months in prison and three months in home confinement for money laundering and steroids distribution from the original Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) case. Anderson’s plea in that instance happened in 2005. Bonds’ trial is the last to stem from the BALCO investigation.
Anderson was the go-between for Bonds in his contact with BALCO, and without his testimony to authenticate them, Illston excluded what the government said were three positive drug tests performed for the lab. Because he isn’t testifying, the government will have a harder time proving the charges in Bonds’ indictment, which includes four counts of making false statements to the grand jury and one count of obstruction.
Each count carries a penalty of up to 10 years, but federal guidelines recommend a sentence of 15-to-21 months.