Barry Bonds avoids prison, gets house arrest on felony conviction
A federal judge sentenced baseball slugger Barry Bonds to probation, 30 days' confinement in his Beverly Hills home and community service Friday but placed the sentence on hold pending Bonds' appeal of his felony obstruction-of-justice conviction.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who presided over Bonds' perjury trial, said "the jury got it exactly right" when it convicted the home run king in April for evasive testimony to a federal grand jury investigating doping in professional sports.
But instead of imposing prison time as prosecutors urged, Illston followed the recommendations of a federal probation office that reviewed the case. Illston said she was impressed at the extent of charitable activity Bonds had engaged in over the years, out of public view.
"Mr. Bonds made an effort to obstruct justice here," Illston said, but "he didn't manage to succeed." She added that the government investigation changed the sports world, launched new testing programs and transformed public attitudes.
Bonds, dressed in a suit and tie, sat between his lawyers as the sentence was handed down, and declined an offer to address the court.
Fans besieged him as he left the courthouse, with the former San Francisco Giants star smiling and thanking them.
Prosecutors charged Bonds with several counts of perjury in addition to obstruction for his 2003 testimony to a grand jury investigating BALCO, the Burlingame, Calif.-based Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which was selling banned steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to the nation's top athletes.
Trial jurors were hung on perjury charges, but they convicted Bonds of obstruction on grounds that he gave rambling answers designed to avoid answering the government's questions.
Bonds' lawyers are appealing that conviction, a process they estimate could take 17 months. If the appeal fails, Bonds would then start serving his sentence, which also includes 250 hours of community service in youth-related activities and a $4,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors objected vehemently to the sentence, arguing that Bonds should go to prison for 15 months.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Matthew A. Parrella called probation "a slap on the wrist" and the fine "almost laughable."
"For a man with a 50,000-square-foot home," Parrella said, home detention was "simply no deterrence."
Parrella said Bonds' testimony before the grand jury reflected a pattern of deceit that lasted many years.
"The defendant lived basically a double life for decades before this," Parrella said. "He was well versed in misleading people. He had mistresses throughout his entire married life, through two marriages."
When Illston reminded Parrella that Bonds wasn't convicted of adultery, someone in the courtroom cheered.
Parrella also faulted the probation office for failing to consider that Bonds had time to plan his testimony to the grand jury.
"This was not a spur-of-the-moment thing where Mr. Bonds got a subpoena on Monday and showed up on Tuesday and told an ill-advised story ...," Parrella said. "This is a story he told for a decade before he went into the grand jury."
-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco
Photo: Barry Bonds. Credit: Noah Berger / Associated Press