Barry Bonds indicted on perjury, obstruction charges
SAN FRANCISCO -- Barry Bonds, baseball's home run king, was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice Thursday and could go to prison instead of the Hall of Fame for telling a federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment, culminating a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes, charged Bonds with four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Shortly after the indictment was handed up, Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was ordered released after spending most of the past year in prison for refusing to testify against his longtime friend.
The 10-page indictment mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds' December 2003 testimony before a federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area supplements lab at the center of a steroid distribution ring. It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
An attorney familiar with the investigation told ESPN's T.J. Quinn that the government obtained the results of positive steroids tests for Bonds during a search of BALCO facilities. The source said the positive results did not come from confidential testing conducted by Major League Baseball and the players' association. In approximately 2001, MLB conducted tests to gauge the level of substance problems among players. The government subpoenaed those records.
Bonds was indicted on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction. The possible penalties:
• Perjury: Five years in prison, three years supervised release for each count.
• Obstruction: 10 years in prison, three years supervised release.
• Read the indictment (.pdf)
In August, when the 43-year-old Bonds passed Hank Aaron to become the career home run leader, he flatly rejected any suggestion that the milestone was stained by steroids.
"This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Bonds said.
Under "Federal Rules of Criminal Procedures," Bonds does not have to surrender for fingerprinting, mug shots and a bond hearing until his initial arraignment in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. His arraignment is scheduled for the morning of Dec. 7. At that point, Bonds will appear before a magistrate judge and then likely be handed over to U.S. Marshals, who will conduct the booking procedures.
But while San Franciscans cheered his every swing and fans elsewhere scorned every homer, a grand jury quietly worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on the long-rumored indictment.
Bonds still will be eligible for the Hall of Fame even if he's convicted and goes to prison, said Jack O'Connell, secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Hall of Fame voters, however, punished Mark McGwire last year when he appeared on the ballot for the first time; McGwire received 128 votes, far short of the necessary 409 needed for induction.
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the steroids probe, which also ensnared track star Marion Jones. She pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and faces up to six months in prison.
Bonds finished the year with 762 homers, seven more than Aaron, and is currently a free agent. In 2001, he set the season record with 73 home runs.
Late in the season, the San Francisco Giants told the seven-time National League MVP they didn't want him back next year.
One of his attorneys, John Burris, didn't know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press and said he would call Bonds to notify him.
"I'm surprised," Burris said, "but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
Defense attorney Mike Rains said he spoke briefly with Bonds but did not describe his reaction. At an evening news conference, he read a statement accusing federal prosecutors of "unethical misconduct" and declined to take questions.
"Every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn't know if waterboarding is torture and can't tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand and persecution on the other," Rains said.
He has never been identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids.
The Giants, the players' union and even the White House called it a sad day for baseball.
"This is a very sad day. For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law," the Giants said.
Union head Donald Fehr said he was "saddened" to learn of the indictment, but cautioned that "every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
What they said about Bonds
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL: "I have yet to see the details of this indictment and while everyone in America is considered innocent until proven guilty, I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely. It is important that the facts regarding steroid use in baseball be known, which is why I asked Senator Mitchell to investigate the issue. I look forward to receiving his report and findings so that we can openly address any issue associated with past steroid use. We currently have a testing program that is as good as any in professional sports, and the program is working. We continue to fund research to find an efficacious test for HGH and have banned amphetamines from our sport. We will continue to work diligently to eradicate the use of all illegal performance-enhancing substances from the game."
DONALD FEHR (executive director, MLBPA): "I was saddened to learn this afternoon of the indictment of Barry Bonds. However, we must remember, as the U.S. Attorney stated in his press release today, that an indictment contains only allegations, and in this country every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: "This is a very sad day. For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law. "
JOHN BURRIS (Bonds' attorney): "I am surprised (by the Bonds indictment). Unless there's evidence that I am not aware of, I never thought there was enough evidence to get a conviction. Maybe there's new evidence. The next step is, you've got to respond in court. We are going to deal with this in court. I have cautioned him [Bonds] that these things [indictments] can happen any day. When someone is doing an investigation, you have to be careful. You never know."
THE WHITE HOUSE: "The President is very disappointed to hear this. As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."
In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said: "The president is very disappointed to hear this. As this case is now in the criminal justice system, we will refrain from any further specific comments about it. But clearly this is a sad day for baseball."
Commissioner Bud Selig withheld judgment, saying, "I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely."
Bush, who once owned the Texas Rangers, called Bonds to congratulate him in August when the Giants' outfielder broke the home run mark. "You've always been a great hitter and you broke a great record," Bush said at the time.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who is investigating drug use in baseball, declined comment.
The Hall of Fame currently has an exhibit dedicated to Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run.
"As a historic museum, we have no intention of taking the exhibit down," Hall vice president Jeff Idelson said.
Bonds joins a parade of defendants tied to the BALCO investigation, including Anderson, who served three months in prison and three months of home detention after pleading guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering.
BALCO founder Victor Conte also served three months in prison after he pleaded guilty to steroids distribution. But Conte has long insisted that Bonds didn't get steroids from his lab.
Conte, in an interview with ESPN's Steve Levy, said Thursday night he "doesn't expect to testify" on behalf of Barry Bonds. Earlier Thursday, Conte told ESPN the Magazine's Shaun Assael that he "may" testify on Bonds' behalf that the sample the government claims Bonds tested positive for steroids on, is not what it seems.
Bonds was charged in the indictment with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson. Bonds is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
"Greg wouldn't do that," Bonds testified when asked if Anderson ever gave him any drugs that needed to be injected. "He knows I'm against that stuff."
Anderson's attorney, Mark Geragos, said the trainer didn't cooperate with the grand jury that indicted Bonds.
"This indictment came out of left field," Geragos said. "Frankly I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him."
Prosecutors promised Bonds they wouldn't charge him with any drug-related counts if he testified truthfully. But according to the indictment, Bonds repeatedly denied taking any steroids or performance-enhancing drugs despite evidence to the contrary.
According to the indictment, Bonds even denied taking steroids when prosecutors showed him the results of a test from November 2000 that showed a "Barry B" testing positive for two types of steroids.
"I've never seen these documents," Bonds said. "I've never seen these papers."
The indictment does not explain where prosecutors obtained those results, but they likely were conducted at BALCO. Bonds first visited BALCO in November 2000 and submitted to the series of urine and drug tests conducted by BALCO founder Victor Conte on every athlete who went through the lab.
The test results may have been seized when federal agents raided BALCO in September 2003.
Conte said Thursday the tests were administered to protect athletes from taking legal supplements contaminated with illegal steroids. But he said he had no way of knowing Bonds' test results because the samples were assigned numbers rather than names.
"The reason for the testing wasn't to circumvent the system," Conte said. "It was to protect the athletes."
Bonds said that at the end of the 2003 season Anderson rubbed some cream on his arm that the trainer said would help him recover. Anderson also gave him something he called "flax seed oil," Bonds said.
Bonds then testified that prior to the 2003 season, he never took anything supplied by Anderson -- which the indictment alleges was a lie because the doping calendars seized from Anderson's house were dated 2001.
Bonds has long been shadowed by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs. The son of former big league star Bobby Bonds, Barry broke into the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986 as a lithe, base-stealing outfielder.
By the late 1990s, he had bulked up to more than 240 pounds -- his head, in particular, becoming noticeably bigger. His physical growth was accompanied by a remarkable power surge.
Speculation of his impending indictment had mounted for more than a year, but the specter of steroid allegations have shadowed him for much longer.
Information from The Associated Press, ESPN's T.J. Quinn and Steve Levy and ESPN The Magazine's Shaun Assael was used in this report.
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