SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — 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.
Mark J. Geragos, Anderson’s lawyer, argued that additional sanctions would be “punitive rather than coercive,” which was ignored by Illston. Later, she instructed the jury that Anderson was unavailable and that jurors may not draw “any inference from his failure to testify.”
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.
Bonds, wearing a dark suit as he did Monday, this time with a light blue shirt and a silver-blue tie, sat with hands clasped for much of the time during opening statements. He occasionally wrote out notes for his lawyers, and he sat slouched in his chair, his long legs crossed at the ankles and poking out the other side of the defense table.
While much or all of the government’s evidence has been made public since Bonds’ indictment in December 2007, Ruby gave the clearest indication of the defense strategy: stick to the story Bonds told the grand jury and assail those implicating against him.
Ruby said the government witnesses and leaks “created a caricature of Barry Bonds, terrible guy, bad, mean.”
“Barry is not a caricature. He’s a man,” Ruby said. “Whether the evidence in this case persuades you that he is an admirable man or not an admirable man or something in between has not a thing to do, we can all agree, with the charges that the United States government brought against him.” He also criticized the government witnesses for cooperating with the media, saying they created “poisonous things that have been out there about Barry.”
Ruby alleged Kimberly Bell, an ex-girlfriend who ended a nine-year relationship with Bonds, and Steve Hoskins, who had a fallout with Bonds in his signed memorabilia business, were “facing the loss of the financial benefit that Barry provided to them over the years.”
Ruby also criticized Kathy Hoskins, Steve’s sister and Bonds’ former personal shopper, saying “the bitterness of these people toward Barry … was very, very pervasive.”
Jurors, who brought pads of paper to the court room, took notes as Novitzky spoke, and there were several empty seats in the five spectator rows during his often-tedious testimony.
Under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey D. Nedrow, the tall, bald investigator, then with the IRS and now with the Food and Drug Administration, recounted going through BALCO’s trash and finding copies of magazine articles containing photos of Bonds with BALCO executives. He then identified what he called a “treasure trove” of drugs taken from Conte’s storage locker, and syringes, steroids and HGH seized from Anderson’s home in September 2003. He said Bonds’ claims that he was given steroids unknowingly caused prosecutors to consider whether they should file assault charges against BALCO executives.
When Novitzky, in response to a question from Ruby, talked about a recording of Anderson and Hoskins discussing how Anderson injected Bonds, several jurors took notes. Ruby objected to the testimony, and Illston ordered it stricken from the record.
Bonds rubbed his eyes and rested his chin on a hand during part of Novitzky’s long testimony. A member of his legal team read the Huffington Post on a laptop.
Copyright Associated Press