Before deliberating, Bonds' jurors get an earful
Friday, April 8, 2011
The eight women and four men sat in the jury box for more than 4½ hours, listening to angry arguments from federal prosecutors and Barry Bonds' attorneys at the end of a 12-day trial that exposed the dark world of baseball's Steroids Era.
Now, Bonds' fate is up to them.
After listening to tawdry accusations of drug use, theft and body parts that grew (Bonds' head) and shrank (his testicles), the 12-member panel gets to decide whether the home run king will become a convicted felon.
Bonds' trial on charges he lied to a grand jury more than seven years ago when he denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs ended Thursday with closing arguments from both sides that were filled with virulence and self-righteousness.
"There's a real irony to this case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella concluded. "These substances that the defendant took to make himself strong — he wasn't strong. He was weak. He was too weak to tell the truth despite all the anabolic steroids."
And with that, at 3:51 p.m. PDT, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston turned to the jury box and said: "At this point ladies and gentlemen, we're turning it over to you."
The jury's first order of business when it starts deliberations Friday — the day the World Series flag is raised at nearby AT&T Park, home of Bonds' San Francisco Giants — is to elect a foreman. Then it must sort through the testimony of 25 witnesses and hundreds of exhibits that include syringes, vials and dizzying computer graphs of drug tests.
A seven-time MVP regarded as among the greatest hitters ever, Bonds is charged with three counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. His lawyers ridiculed the prosecution as being celebrity obsessed and willing to cut deals with anyone who would implicate perhaps the top player of his generation.
"It's part of an effort to demonize Barry Bonds, and it's very wrong," lead defense lawyer Allen Ruby said.
Cristina Arguedas, another of Bonds' attorneys, repeatedly took off her glasses and pointed them contemptuously at Jeff Novitzky, the tall, bald federal investigator who was seated at the prosecution table.
"They have the power to end careers and to ruin lives," she said to the jury, her voice quavering. "And nobody gets to test that evidence unless they have the wherewithal and internal strength to come to a jury trial — to you."
Bonds is charged with lying when he denied knowingly receiving steroids and human growth hormone from personal trainer Greg Anderson and for saying he allowed only doctors to inject him. An obstruction count lists four additional statements the government alleges were made to evade or mislead the grand jury.
Each count carries a possible sentence of 10 years in prison, but federal guidelines indicate a recommended total sentence of 15 to 21 months. For convictions for similar offenses in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) case, Illston sentenced two people to home confinement.
Bonds doesn't dispute that he took steroids but testified to the grand jury that Anderson told him they were flaxseed oil and arthritic balm. Parrella, in his 51-minute rebuttal that ended the trial, compared that to a teenager who arrives home glassy eyed on a Saturday night and tells his parents "I went to a bar and they told me it was just Coke."
Parrella said Bonds' plan at the grand jury was to "sell the little lie and hide the big lie" that his exploits — including the record for home runs in a season (73 in 2001) and, later, in a career (762) — were built on steroids.
"It all makes sense when you realize the defendant lied in the grand jury because he wanted to protect his secret," the prosecutor said. "It would have been embarrassing and humiliating for him to acknowledge it."
"But you know what?" he added. "Other players did."
Former AL MVP Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Marvin Benard and Randy Velarde all testified to receiving drugs from Anderson and said they knew what they were getting. Anderson has been jailed for refusing to testify, and the jurors will have to decide what to make of his absence.
Wearing a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and yellow tie, Bonds sat at the defense table, watching and listening. When the defense presentation ended, he gave lead lawyer Allen Ruby an appreciative tap on the left shoulder. Arguedas walked over to the first row of spectator benches and gave a hug to the player's mother, Pat.
While there previously had been empty spectator seats on most days in the 19th-floor courtroom, there was a line down the hallway of people waiting to get in.
After Illston read the jury instructions, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nedrow spent nearly an hour and a half summing up the government's case. He began with Bonds' appearance on Dec. 4, 2003, before the BALCO grand jury which was investigating steroid distribution to athletes.
"All he had to do was tell the truth," Nedrow said. "He chose not to tell the truth, and that's why he's here."
He said Bonds' testimony to the grand jury was unbelievable.
"He makes $17 million a year and doesn't know what he's taking," Nedrow asked rhetorically.
Ruby, speaking for 64 minutes divided by a lunch break, pointed out how Nedrow and Ross Nadel, another Assistant U.S. Attorney, switched off asking the questions 36 times during Bonds' grand jury appearance.
"A lot of the venom in the government's pursuit here is because he wasn't intimidated," Ruby said in his deep baritone. "He was not subservient. He was Barry."
Ruby and Arguedas attacked the credibility of the three primary witnesses against Bonds: former business manager Steve Hoskins, former Bonds' personal shopper Kathy Hoskins (Steve's sister), and former Bonds' girlfriend Kimberly Bell.
"When the government forms alliances with some of the people you've seen here, things can go haywire," Ruby told the jury. "And the system relies on you to make sure the system doesn't go haywire."
The defense said Steve Hoskins made up stories about Bonds after the player went to the FBI and accused him of theft, and that Kathy Hoskins went along to back her brother. Bell was described as a mistress scorned who signed false statements to secure a mortgage and exaggerated to a grand jury about Bonds' alleged decrease in testicle size that prosecutors claimed was caused by steroids.
"This prosecution in its zeal to go after Barry Bonds will forgive anybody anything, including perjury and mortgage fraud," Arguedas said. "They will forgive it if somebody is willing to say something bad about Barry Bonds."
Parrella countered the witnesses could not have all gotten together to implicate Bonds. Prosecutors played a recording Hoskins secretly made of a conversation he had with Anderson in which the trainer discusses giving the player injections.
"Count the number of conspiracies the defendant alleges," Parrella said to the jury.
He also criticized Arguedas for her aggressive questioning of a tearful Bell.
"All they could do is mock Kim Bell. All they could do is snicker at her. All they could do is rage at her," he said. "It's up to you decide whether the manner of her cross-examination was professional."
Ruby, in turn, attacked the prosecution for not presenting any witness from the grand jury to back up the government's claim that the grand jury was misled. The jury must find Bonds' statements were material — that is, important — to the grand jury investigation of BALCO.