SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A lawyer for Barry Bonds told an appellate court on Wednesday that it should strike down the home run king’s felony obstruction of justice conviction tied to a probe of steroids in sports.
“There’s not a shred of evidence that Mr. Bonds was ever given anything to inject himself with or that he ever injected anything,” the player’s attorney, appellate specialist Dennis Riordan, told the court.
At least one of three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel appeared skeptical Bonds committed a crime.
Bonds, 48, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Francisco Giants, is the most accomplished Major League Baseball player caught up in a scandal over performance enhancing drugs.
Last month, Bonds and pitcher Roger Clemens were denied entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in what was seen as a referendum on players who compiled outsized statistics during the sport’s so-called Steroids Era.
In 2011, Bonds was sentenced to two years probation and 30 days of confinement to his palatial home after a jury convicted him of one count of obstruction of justice relating to his 2003 appearance before a grand jury. The jury deadlocked on three other counts of lying to a grand jury, and the district court judge stayed the punishment pending appeal.
The criminal charges stemmed from Bonds’ sworn testimony before a federal grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, or BALCO.
During the appeals court hearing held on Wednesday in San Francisco, Judge Michael Daly Hawkins asked a federal prosecutor how exactly Bonds might have misled the grand jury when he responded to a question about injectable steroids by giving a rambling answer about being a “celebrity child with a famous father,” in former baseball All-Star Bobby Bonds.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Merry Jean Chan responded that Bonds swore to tell the truth but instead dodged the question.
“If the government thought the answers were evasive, why didn’t they take Mr. Bonds down to a district judge and say, ‘Judge, make him answer the question?’” Hawkins asked Chan during the 35-minute hearing.
Chan replied: “It was an affirmative, calculated deception to say he didn’t have anything relevant to give to a grand jury.”
Bonds did not attend the hearing on the advice of Riordan, who said he feared the star’s presence would prove a distraction.
During the hearing, Riordan argued that following Bonds’ rambling answer to the grand jury, the slugger directly said he had never injected himself.
In testimony during Bonds’ 2011 trial, his former personal shopper, Kathy Hoskins, said the slugger’s trainer used a syringe filled with an unknown substance on Bonds in 2002.
In 2003, Bonds testified before the grand jury he received flaxseed oil, vitamins, protein shakes and creams from his trainer, but he said he had no knowledge of human growth hormones or steroids.
The three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will issue a written ruling in the case.
A record seven-time Most Valuable Player in the National League, Bonds made the league All-Star team 14 times.
He ended his career in 2007 with 762 home runs, the most in Major League history. He also set the single-season home run record with 73 in 2001.
Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis