Feds fight for key evidence against Bonds

Federal prosecutors urged a federal appellate court to reverse a trial judgement and let them present critical evidence they say shows Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids.

Both sides fielded difficult questions Thursday from the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a case stemming from Bonds’ grand jury testimony in December 2003, the home run king pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of justice. He is accused of lying when he testified that he never knowingly used performance enhancing drugs.

U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt appeared skeptical of the government’s position, while Judge Carlos T. Bea appeared to be searching for a legally sound way to have the evidence admitted. Judge Mary M. Schroeder sat in the middle — literally and figuratively — of the panel, asking few questions but appearing to lean toward Bonds’ side.

At issue is whether evidence directly tied to Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, could be shown to the jury that will hear Bonds’ case.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in February barred prosecutors from presenting the evidence, including urine samples the government alleges tested positive for steroids at the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

The samples were purportedly delivered by Anderson to BALCO, the center of a sports doping ring. Anderson pleaded guilty in 2005 to illegal steroids distribution.

Illston said Anderson would need to testify about his role as delivery man to conclusively prove the samples belonged to Bonds. But Anderson told the judge he would rather go to jail on contempt of court charges than testify at Bonds’ trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara J. Valliere, chief of the appellate section in San Francisco, argued Thursday that the government could prove the urine samples belonged to Bonds through the testimony of James Valente, a former BALCO executive. Valente is expected to testify that Anderson delivered the samples to him and identified them as belonging to Bonds.

Bonds’ lawyer, Dennis Riordan, argued that drug testing generally is plagued by “lies, forgeries and misstatements.” Therefore, he argued,  the evidence can’t be used unless everyone who handled the samples testifies. He called the excluded samples “the most critical evidence in the government’s case.”

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