Beloved by some, reviled by others, Major League Baseball home run king Barry Bonds could be sent to prison today for obstructing a federal investigation into whether he knowingly used steroids.
“Intentional, corrupt efforts to obstruct the judicial system such as this require accountability and a severe sanction from the judicial system,” prosecutors wrote in seeking a 15-month prison sentence. “Without truthful testimony, the judicial system cannot function properly in its mission — to get to justice.”
Or, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston could side with attorneys for the 47-year-old former Giants outfielder and sentence him to probation.
Probation officers urged that Bonds receive community service, not prison time. His lawyers say he has a history of charitable work in the community and lacks a criminal record.
“Mr. Bonds’ capacity and willingness to contribute to the community is verified by many of the letters submitted on his behalf,” attorney Allen Ruby wrote in a sentencing memo. He cited a Sept. 28, 2011 letter from a nurse at UCSF’s Children’s Hospital calling Bonds a “wonderful benefactor” of the hospital’s new Barry Bonds Family Foundation playroom.
“Barry is always unfailingly kind and attentive to the many young children who flock to his side,” the employee wrote. “Most often these are unannounced and unpublicized visits. Frequently he will go to the bedside of a particularly ill child and gently give him/her words of encouragement to ‘never give up.’”
Whatever happens, it could bring to an end almost 10 years of controversy.
A jury convicted Bonds in April of one count of obstructing justice in his 2003 testimony to a federal grand jury probing the steroid dealings of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in Burlingame, where Bonds was alleged to have obtained his steroids. The jury deadlocked on three other counts that he lied to the grand jury.
Only one of four other athletes convicted in the BALCO case, track star Marion Jones, received a prison sentence.
And prosecutors want nothing less than prison for the crown jewel in their massive, nine-year steroid investigation. They said there had been “overwhelming evidence” that Bonds had been getting anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs from BALCO and his personal trainer Greg Anderson. Anderson and BALCO President Victor Conte both pleaded guilty to drug distribution charges in connection with the case.
In their sentencing memo, prosecutors said Bonds received immunity for his testimony to the grand jury but denied knowingly using the drugs, and then “repeatedly provided evasive, misleading and wandering answers.”
Bonds responded to substantive questions by discussing his childhood, fishing and friends, they said.
Bonds still refuses to take responsibility for his “calculated plan” to evade telling the truth, prosecutors said.
Fallout from steroids probe
The Barry Bonds trial was the final case stemming from a massive investigation.
Barry Bonds’ personal trainer
Pleaded guilty: One count of money laundering and one count of steroid distribution
Pleaded guilty: One count of steroids distribution, one count of money laundering
Sentence: Four months in prison, four months of home confinement
Convicted: One count of lying to federal investigators. Mistrial declared on two other counts
Sentence: One year of home confinement
Olympic track gold medalist
Pleaded guilty: Two counts of making false statements.
Sentence: Six months in prison
Former 49ers defensive lineman
Pleaded guilty: One count of making false statement to a government agency
Sentence: Two years probation
Elite sprint coach
Convicted: Three counts of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice
In the box
Sentence Bonds faces
- Federal sentencing guidelines suggest a prison term of between 15 and 21 months.
- Federal probation officers are recommending that Bonds receive no time.
What he was convicted of
- Guilty of one charge of obstruction of justice.
- Hung jury on three charges of lying.
Charges he faced
- Two charges of lying to a grand jury when he denied knowingly taking steroids and human growth hormone.
- One charge of lying to a grand jury when he said no one other than his doctor ever injected him with anything.
- One count of obstruction of justice for hindering the grand jury’s investigation by giving evasive answers.
Public pushes for mercy rule
“Probation and A LOT of community service. To put him in jail, I don’t think is going to do any good for anybody. Clogs up the jail system.”
— Doran Savelli, 41, Fremont
“I don’t think it’s a serious enough offense to warrant being in prison. There are worse crimes committed.”
— Melissa Black, 23, Los Angeles