Barry Bonds' defense lawyer says 'cagey' prosecutors tried to set him up during his grand jury testimony [Updated]
A defense lawyer for former slugger Barry Bonds suggested at his federal perjury trial Thursday that “cagey” prosecutors tried to set him up during his 2003 grand jury appearance and were miffed that the former San Francisco Giant refused to be intimidated.
Two “highly trained” prosecutors fired questions at him, tried to mislead him, and “clearly tried to intimidate him,” Allen Ruby, Bonds’ lead lawyer, told jurors in closing argument. But Bonds was “not intimidated.”
“A lot of the venom in the government pursuit here is because he was not intimidated," Ruby said. “He did not say, ‘Yes sir’ ... He was not subservient. He’s Barry.”
Ruby denounced “some of the pettiness that really is at the root of this important proceeding.”
The defense lawyer also said the government failed to prove that Bonds’ grand jury statements were “material” or could have influenced the grand jury decisions, which indicted five people associated with a Bay Area laboratory that distributed illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
[Updated, 3 p.m.: “The government doesn’t get to do a gotcha,” Ruby said.
Prosecutors used unreliable witnesses to corroborate other unreliable witnesses, he said. Among them, Ruby said, was Kathy Hoskins, who shopped and packed for Bonds and testified that she once saw Bonds’ personal trainer inject him in the navel.
Defense lawyers argued that she was trying to protect her brother Steve Hoskins, who became a government witness against Bonds after Bonds complained to the FBI that Hoskins stole money from him.
“Blood is thicker than water,” Ruby said.
Cristina Arguedas, another defense lawyer, told jurors that government agents failed to make proper reports or document evidence and withheld information from the jurors.
“How much time and money have they spent proving that Barry Bonds had acne and bloating… and impotence, and -- their favorite subject -- testicle shrinkage,” Arguedas said.
She reminded jurors that Bonds was taking prescribed corticosteroids, which had most of the same side effects as anabolic steroids, but prosecutors never told jurors that.
At one point, Arguedas raised the topic of “jury nullification,” a term used for times when jurors ignore the law and decide a verdict based on their view of justice.
“This is a false statements case, let’s all remember that,” Arguedas said.
She noted that she was driving home the night before and heard on the radio that the federal government might shut down.
“And I am writing a closing argument because these people thought it was a good idea to bring Kim Bell here to admit she committed perjury about the size of Barry Bonds’ testicles,” Arguedas said.
Kimberly Bell, Bonds’ girlfriend of nine years, told a grand jury that Bonds’ testicles shrank by half as a result of steroid use. She admitted during the trial that her statement was inaccurate and explained it was just an estimate.]
Bonds, 46, faces a charge of obstruction of justice and three counts of lying under oath in his testimony before a grand jury in December 2003.
Bonds admitted to the grand jury that he used two substances identified as steroids but insisted that he thought they were flaxseed oil and arthritis cream. He also testified that he took various pills that Greg Anderson, his personal trainer, gave him and never asked what the pills contained.
Anderson was sent to jail at the start of the trial for refusing to testify.
A conviction could lead to a lengthy prison sentence or home confinement and affect whether Bonds is elected to the Hall of Fame.
In 2007, Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron's record for career home runs, considered the most hallowed record in major league baseball.
-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco