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 Sex.com Internet
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