In Barry Bonds appeal, U.S. judges take swings at Justice Department

Thu Sep 18, 2014 7:09pm EDT
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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Several U.S. appeals court judges appeared skeptical on Thursday about the Department of Justice's attempt to preserve a criminal conviction against baseball home run king Barry Bonds that resulted from a steroids probe.

The case involves testimony Bonds gave to a grand jury in 2003 about whether he used steroids to help him bash more long balls. Last year, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed a conviction against him for obstruction of justice.

However, the full 9th Circuit voted to rehear the case. At a hearing on Thursday in San Francisco, more than half of the judges on the 11-member panel peppered the government with questions about whether Bonds's testimony actually amounted to a crime.

"I find your reading of the statute absolutely alarming," Judge William Fletcher said.

In 2003, Bonds told grand jurors about his childhood when asked whether his former trainer, Greg Anderson, had given him self-injectable substances.

Bonds had been testifying under a grant of immunity, and denied knowingly using steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) provided by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, known as BALCO, or by Anderson.

After talking about his friendship with the trainer, Bonds, the son of former baseball star Bobby Bonds, had testified: "I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation."

The slugger was convicted on one obstruction charge in April 2011, and the jury deadlocked on three perjury counts. His sentence of two years of probation and 30 days of home confinement was put on hold pending the appeal of his conviction.   Continued...

Mar 10, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants former outfielder Barry Bonds reacts during batting practice prior to the game against the Chicago Cubs at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports