New deal could put BALCO leaker in prison up to 33 months

Updated: July 5, 2007, 8:01 PM ET
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- The attorney who leaked grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and other elite athletes investigated for steroid use agreed to a maximum sentence of two years and 9 months in prison, nine months longer than his original plea bargain.

In papers filed in San Francisco federal court Thursday, prosecutors said Troy Ellerman is willing to accept a 33-month prison sentence after a judge last month rejected the original deal of a 24-month maximum sentence as too lenient.

Federal prosecutors also agreed to reduce the maximum fine he faces to $60,000 from the $250,000 agreed to earlier.

District Court Judge Jeffrey White, who rejected the earlier deal, still must approve the new agreement when Ellerman returns to court July 12.

Ellerman's attorney Scott Tedmon said he will still argue that his client should be sentenced to 15 months in prison -- an argument that didn't persuade the judge last month.

"We are trying to wrap this thing up without a lot of litigation," Tedmon said. "We're trying to give the judge some latitude."

Ellerman pleaded guilty to allowing a newspaper reporter to view confidential transcripts of grand jury testimony from Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and other athletes embroiled in the government's steroids investigation. The 44-year-old Ellerman initially blamed federal investigators for leaking the testimony.

Ellerman was a successful Sacramento attorney when Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, hired him following the raid of the Burlingame nutritional supplements lab, part of the government probe.

Ellerman also later served as the attorney for BALCO vice president James Valente and has copies of the grand jury testimony being used to prosecute his clients. Ellerman allowed San Francisco Chronicle reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada to view the players' grand jury testimony, according to the plea agreement.

Fainaru-Wada and fellow reporter Lance Williams then published stories in 2004 reporting that Giambi and others had admitted using steroids, while Bonds and Sheffield testified they didn't knowingly take the drugs. The leaked testimony was featured prominently in the writers' book "Game of Shadows," which recounts Bonds' alleged use of steroids.

After Ellerman pleaded guilty to four felony charges of obstruction of justice and disobeying court orders in February, prosecutors dropped their case against the two reporters. They had faced up to 18 months in prison for refusing to divulge the source of the leak.

Ellerman was fired as commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and voluntarily gave up his California license to practice law.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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