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Bonds found guilty of obstruction of justice

Bonds found guilty of obstruction of justice

Bonds found guilty of obstruction of justice
SAN FRANCISCO -- The jury deciding the federal case against Barry Bonds found him guilty of obstruction of justice on Wednesday, but it could not come to a conclusion on any of the three counts of making false declarations during his 2003 testimony before the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) grand jury.

With that result, Judge Susan Illston excused the jurors, and then declared a mistrial on the three charges that the jury couldn't decide upon. In lieu of a sentencing date, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella asked the judge to set, Illston scheduled a status conference for May 20. While the count carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, two previous BALCO-related convictions have resulted in months of home confinement, not prison time.

Defense counsel immediately moved for a directed verdict to dismiss the conviction, but Illston did not rule on that yet. The government, via a statement, said it still might seek to retry the counts that resulted in a hung jury.

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The eight women and four men who were impaneled March 22 in Illston's courtroom listened to 11 days of testimony and arguments before taking three days and about four hours to come in with their split verdict on Bonds, the Major Leagues' all-time leader in home runs and a seven-time Most Valuable Player.

"We respect the jury's decision and their careful consideration of the evidence in this case and are gratified by the guilty verdict on Count Five (obstruction of justice)," U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement. "This case is about upholding one of the most fundamental principles in our system of justice -- the obligation of every witness to provide truthful and direct testimony in judicial proceedings. In the United States, taking an oath and promising to testify truthfully is a serious matter. We cannot ignore those who choose instead to obstruct justice."

The jury came back split on Count One, which dealt with Bonds denying he ever used something he knew to be a steroid, with a vote count of nine for not guilty, three for guilty. Count Three, which dealt with Bonds denying ever receiving from Anderson anything he understood to be human-growth hormone, went eight for not guilty, four for guilty.

Count Two, as expected, was the closest Bonds came to conviction, with 11 votes for guilty, one for not guilty. That was the count in which Bonds had denied ever being injected by anyone not his doctor, and former shopper Kathy Hoskins had provided an eyewitness account of seeing Anderson inject Bonds in the abdomen while she was packing Bonds' clothes for a road trip in 2002.

The obstruction conviction was based on Statement C of four statements in the BALCO grand-jury testimony that the government contended were "intentionally evasive, false or misleading." In Statement C, Bonds was asked if trainer Greg Anderson had ever given him anything that required a syringe to inject him with. After saying he and Anderson didn't talk about their personal lives and that people who come to his house don't talk about baseball but can talk about fishing and other things, Bonds gave the following statement that was deemed to be too evasive for the jury to ignore.

"That's what keeps our friendship," Bonds said to the grand jury, referring to Anderson. "You know, I am sorry, but that -- you know, that -- I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see ..."

Barry Bonds is the son of late Major Leaguer Bobby Bonds.

Defense attorney Allen Ruby said outside the courthouse, with Bonds standing by his side, that the charge for which the jury came back with a conviction had nothing to do with whether Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs, and he anticipated an eventual positive result on that charge for his client.

"The U.S. government has sought and at least for now obtained a verdict that says it is unlawful to tell a grand jury that he was a celebrity child and to talk about his friendship with Greg Anderson," Ruby said.

Bonds, who only spoke quietly and quickly when reporters asked him questions, at one point was asked if he was going to celebrate, responding, "There's nothing to celebrate." He also smiled and responded to a fan who asked him where he's going to play baseball next: "I'm not playing baseball anymore."

Several members of the public were outside when the Bonds contingent emerged from the federal building. One shouted from across the street: "Felon!" Others offered support, and a school bus full of children cheered as it drove by, with Bonds flashing a smile and a victory sign to the bus. One fan wore a T-shirt that read: "If Barry Bonds goes to jail, baseball can go to hell."

Later Wednesday afternoon, the Giants released a brief statement that read: "This case is ongoing and we expect it will proceed in a fair and orderly manner. Accordingly, we have no comment at this time."

On the other side of the building several of the jurors were surrounded by media members, recounting their deliberations -- which by all accounts got emotional and contentious at times. The jury was seated anonymously, and none of them gave their last names.

The foreman, a white-haired man later identified by The Associated Press as Fred Jacob, said the obstruction charge was the one thing upon which they all could agree Bonds had violated the law while testifying before a grand jury.

"When you look at the entire grand jury testimony, he is often dodging the question, giving answers that are not relevant at all to the question," Jacob said. "This was one question where it was really clear."

A juror named Nyiesha was the lone holdout on Count Two regarding receiving injections from anyone other than his doctor, saying she was almost swayed at one point but stood her ground after sleeping on it. She said there was enough doubt that Kathy Hoskins might have been favoring her brother -- whose testimony was impeached throughout the trial, the jurors acknowledged -- over Bonds, and the truth.

"Not only was there the relationship as family, but she was also employed by him," Nyiesha said of Hoskins, who worked for her brother's auto-detailing company. "I just thought Steve was very unreliable. That doesn't mean his sister is, but there's a slight possibility, and I just didn't feel comfortable going against the reasonable doubt."

The outcome of this trial, heavily covered by national media with a packed courtroom every day, was made even more dramatic by a misunderstanding between the jury and the court. The jury informed the court early Wednesday afternoon that it had reached a verdict, but when court was called back in session there was confusion about what exactly it had concluded.

Illston called the two legal sides together to determine how to approach the situation. Ruby and lead prosecutor Parrella agreed to send a note to the jury via Illston to determine exactly what the status of their deliberations was. Illston decided instead to bring the jury in the courtroom, finding out they were not able to reach decisions on multiple counts.

About 45 minutes after they were originally scheduled to give their verdict, the jury was brought back into the courtroom to deliver the verdict. Bonds did not have a visible reaction when the verdict was read.

Bonds originally was indicted on four charges of giving false testimony and one charge of obstruction of justice on Nov. 15, 2006. He pleaded not guilty on Dec. 7, 2006. A second indictment added 10 charges, but the third superseding indictment on Feb. 10 of this year was pared back down to four charges of making false declarations and one of obstruction of justice. One of the charges of making false statements was dropped prior to closing arguments during the trial.

The trial took place in the U.S. District Court, Northern California District, in Courtroom 10 of the Phillip Burton Federal Building.

The prosecution, led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Parrella and Jeffrey Nedrow, called 25 witnesses to the stand, including active baseball player Jason Giambi and former players Jeremy Giambi, Marvin Benard and Randy Velarde. The witness list also included Steve Hoskins, Kathy Hoskins and Bonds' former mistress Kimberly Bell, along with a parade of drug-testing employees and experts. The prosecution was not able to compel Anderson to testify, however, so he was sent back to federal prison for contempt of court at the beginning of the trial, then released when the jury went into deliberations. One of what originally were four charges of making false statements was dropped prior to closing arguments.

The defense team, led by Ruby and Cristina Arguedas, did not present a single witness, only reading part of the testimony Bell gave the Bonds grand jury to demonstrate contradictions with her testimony at trial. They vigorously cross-examined Bell and Steve Hoskins, in particular, and argued in closing that the government's pursuit of Bonds was motivated by the fact that he wasn't intimidated by investigators at the grand jury.

Bonds, 46, hit 762 home runs in his career, surpassing Hank Aaron's previous career record of 755 in 2007. A 14-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner whose seven MVP awards are a record, Bonds set the single-season mark for homers with 73 in 2001. He also stands as the all-time leader in walks with 2,558 and intentional walks with 688 and remains the only player to record 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases.

The son of three-time All-Star Bobby Bonds and the godson of Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Bonds played for the Pirates for seven seasons (1986-92) before signing as a free agent with his hometown Giants prior to the 1993 season, leading the National League with 46 homers and 123 RBIs that year to claim his third NL MVP honor. Bonds later won four consecutive MVP awards, from 2001-04.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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