Jones lawsuit yet to go to trial

Updated: January 28, 2005, 10:55 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- BALCO founder Victor Conte hired a high-profile First Amendment attorney to defend him against a $25 million defamation suit by sprinter Marion Jones, whom Conte accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Conte will be defended by James Wagstaffe, of the San Francisco firm Kerr & Wagstaff. He has successfully represented the California State Bar and the owner of the disputed Internet site.

Jones sued Conte in federal court in December, alleging the head of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative tarnished her reputation when he told a national television audience that Jones used drugs before and after the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she won three gold medals and two bronzes.

The defamation case, which has not yet gone to trial, will be heard before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who also is presiding over the BALCO steroids scandal case in which Conte and three other men are charged with illegally distributing steroids to elite athletes. All have pleaded not guilty.

This week, federal authorities raided Conte's San Mateo house and seized e-mail and other records as part of an investigation of grand jury testimony leaks in the BALCO case.

The search came after a series of newspaper and online reports quoting the 2003 grand jury testimony of San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi and track star Tim Montgomery. Grand jury testimony is supposed to be secret.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press