BALCO leaker Ellerman gets 2 years in prison

7/12/2007 - MLB

SAN FRANCISCO -- An attorney who admitted leaking the
confidential grand jury testimony of Barry Bonds and other athletes
to a reporter was sentenced Thursday to two and a half years in
prison, by far the harshest penalty to result from the government's
sprawling probe of steroids in sports.

Troy Ellerman, 44, pleaded guilty in February to allowing a San
Francisco Chronicle reporter to view transcripts of testimony by
Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield and other athletes embroiled in
the steroids investigation. Giambi admitted taking steroids while
Sheffield and Bonds testified if they did take performance
enhancing drugs, they did so unwittingly.

After the newspaper published the players' embarrassing accounts
after they had been promised confidentiality, the judge overseeing
the case recommended that the Department of Justice launch a leak

Ellerman initially blamed federal investigators for leaking the
testimony and argued that the case against his client be tossed out
because of government misconduct. He also lied to a judge about not
knowing the source of the leaks.

"This affected, and infected every aspect of the judicial
system," U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White said.

White also rejected Ellerman's argument that he should get a
lighter sentence because President Bush commuted former vice
presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's 2-year prison
sentence for perjury to probation. White said to do so would open
the door to doling out unduly lenient sentences for other white
collar criminals.

"If Mr. Ellerman is dissatisfied with his sentence, he should
seek a commutation from the president," White said.

White also asked prosecutors about a letter Bonds' attorney
Michael Rains filed in the case arguing that the slugger was a
victim of Ellerman's actions and that Ellerman was not the only
leak in the high-profile case.

Rains says he has evidence that sources other than Ellerman --
but still unknown to him -- had leaked confidential grand jury
evidence to the Chronicle and other publications.

"Since Mr. Bonds has yet to be indicted, I have not been in
position to introduce evidence concerning the leaked grand jury
materials related to this case," Rains said in his letter to the
judge. "In the event that Mr. Bonds is indicted, I would certainly
welcome such an opportunity."

But on Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Raphael told
the judge that the government's leak investigation concluded with
Ellerman's conviction. Raphael conceded that there had been other
"little leaks" in the case, but that investigators were focused
on finding the culprit of the grand jury breach.

"We do not believe that there is any other source," Raphael
said. "We have no specific evidence that someone else leaked grand
jury transcripts."

Ellerman was a successful Sacramento attorney when Victor Conte,
founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, known as BALCO,
hired him following a 2003 raid of the Burlingame nutritional
supplements lab by federal agents.

He also later served as the attorney for BALCO vice president
James Valente, and it was while he was representing Valente that he
allowed reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada to view the players' grand jury

The leaked testimony was featured prominently in Fainaru-Wada's
book co-written with Lance Williams called "Game of Shadows,"
which recounts the alleged steroid use of Bonds, who is five home
runs away from breaking Hank Aaron's career home run record.

A friend and former private investigator in Ellerman's law firm
turned him in to authorities after they had a falling out.

Ellerman said the pressures of the high-profile case coupled
with alcohol and cocaine abuse were major factors in letting the
reporter view the transcripts.

"I did not do this seeking publicity," he told the judge. He
said trying to cover his tracks "took on a life of its own."

He pleaded guilty to four felony counts of obstruction of
justice and related charges, and federal 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.

Judge White also ordered Ellerman to give 10 talks on conduct to
law students. The judge didn't fine Ellerman.

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

Ellerman's two clients in the original case, BALCO founder Conte
and former BALCO executive Valente, pleaded guilty to
steroids-related charges in an earlier phase of the investigation.
Chemist Patrick Arnold, Bonds' personal trainer Greg Anderson and
track coach Remi Korchemny have also pleaded guilty to related

Korchemny and Valente were sentenced to probation, and the
others were each sentenced to jail terms no longer than four
months. Anderson remains in prison, where he returned after
refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating possible
perjury and tax evasion charges against Bonds.

The case is United States v. Ellerman, 07-0080.