Judge denies Bonds' request to block profits of book

Updated: March 24, 2006, 9:00 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SAN FRANCISCO -- A judge on Friday denied a bid by Barry Bonds' lawyers to block the authors and publishers from making money on a book claiming the San Francisco Giants' slugger used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds' attorney talks
Barry Bonds' attorney Michael Rains appeared on "The Dan Patrick Radio Show" Friday on ESPN Radio to discuss the lawsuit brought against "Game of Shadows" authors and publishers. Rains also explains why he doesn't considered this to be a libel or slander case, then heatedly debates that issue with ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack. Insider

Bonds' attorneys say the book's authors, publisher Gotham Books, the San Francisco Chronicle and Sports Illustrated, which published excerpts of the book, should be held liable for publishing "illegally obtained grand jury transcripts."

They sought a temporary restraining order on all profits from the book.

Judge James Warren denied that request. The lawsuit stands, although the judge said he thought it had little chance of success and the writers had raised "serious First Amendment issues."

The book, "Game of Shadows," by Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, is based partly on grand jury testimony from a federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, or BALCO, where Bonds and several other major league players allegedly obtained performance-enhancing drugs.

The book hit shelves Thursday, the same day Bonds' attorneys said they would sue the writers, Gotham, the Chronicle and Sports Illustrated.

"We are seeking to have the credibility and integrity of the grand jury proceeding restored," Bonds lawyer Alison Berry Wilkinson told the judge during a 40-minute hearing in San Francisco County Superior Court.

Bonds did not attend the hearing.

Another Bonds lawyer, Michael Rains, said laws prohibit people from possessing grand jury materials unless they are unsealed and that the defendants have no right to profit from illegally obtained material. He said Fainaru-Wada and Williams, "have made a complete farce of the criminal justice system."

Jonathan Donnellan, a lawyer for the two writers and Hearst Corp., which owns the chronicle, said writers and publishers are protected by the First Amendment and that the suit "takes direct aim at protected speech."

The lawyers sued under California's unfair competition law.

"It's a very ill-conceived lawsuit," said Bruce Simon, chairman of the California State Bar Commission's Committee on Unfair Competition and Antitrust Law. "I think the judge obviously sees that."

Earlier Friday, in a separate court action, Bonds' lawyers also sent a letter to a federal judge, demanding that Fainaru-Wada and Williams be held in contempt of court.

"The true victim is not Barry Bonds, but the sanctity and integrity of the grand jury process," the attorneys wrote to U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.

The book claims Bonds used steroids, human growth hormone, insulin and other banned substances for at least five seasons beginning in 1998.

"We certainly stand by our reporters and the reporting they did for us," Chronicle executive vice president and editor Phil Bronstein said Thursday. "Nothing that's happened will change that."

"We fully stand behind our reporting of the book," Fainaru-Wada said.

Lisa Johnson, a spokeswoman for publisher Gotham Books, said the publisher supports both authors.

"We at Gotham Books are shocked that Barry Bonds would take such a foolish step,'' she said. ``Any respected First Amendment lawyer in America knows that his claim is nonsense."

Rains said Bonds will not comment directly on the lawsuit but strongly supports the case.

"His bat speaks for himself and he's not going to speak on this action and this book," Rains said.

A key source in the book is a former Bonds lover, Kimberly Bell, who bolsters the steroid case against Bonds and says she received money from the seven-time Most Valuable Player not reported to tax authorities.

"There is an ongoing investigation and I don't want to interrupt that in any way," Bell told Reuters on Thursday. "Because of the investigation and the potential there at this time I am not making any commentary on the situation or the book."

Legal experts say the book could also prompt the U.S. attorney to investigate whether Bonds lied to a federal grand jury when he testified in the BALCO steroid case. Bell has already testified before a grand jury.

The book also claims sluggers Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, both now with the New York Yankees, also used performance-enhancing drugs.

Giambi was asked about Bonds' planned suit Thursday at the Yankees' spring camp in Tampa, Fla.

"This is all news to me. I didn't know any more of this than what you guys know," Giambi said. "I've done what I had to do last year and I've gone forward. I handled it last year, gone forward and I'm worried about winning a World Series now. It was the best thing I needed to do."

The book claims Giambi turned to performance-enhancing drugs because he felt pressured to please his perfectionist father.

"I think it's pretty pathetic that they tried to drag my father into it," Giambi said.

Fainaru-Wada told the New York Daily News for a story published Friday that the book does not draw any connections between Giambi's use of performance-enhancing drugs and his relationship with his father.

"The notion that the book said that is not accurate at all," Fainaru-Wada told the newspaper. "It's not even close."

Fainaru-Wada said the book mentions Giambi's father only to give background to the slugger's career.

"His dad was part of telling who he is and why he was driven to succeed," Fainaru-Wada said. "The connection about his father being a reason he used steroids was not at all a part of that."

Sheffield would not comment on the book.

"I don't even talk about it," Sheffield said.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.