SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Former Giants player Barry Bonds appealed his conviction of a single count of obstruction of justice in the federal investigation of steroid abuse, claiming “rambling under oath is not a federal crime.”
A federal jury concluded last year that Bonds had failed to adequately answer questions from a grand jury in 2003 about whether he had received steroids from his trainer, Greg Anderson, and injected them. Instead, Bonds made a rambling statement about his family and private life and how his status as a “celebrity child” precluded him from asking Anderson what substances he was giving him.
In a 70-page brief filed Thursday, Bonds’ attorneys say the government went after the star athlete because of his fame.
“This case arose out of the federal government’s efforts to combat steroid use in sports,” the brief states. “That crusade, while admirable in its underlying purpose, has been pursued with an intensity at times bordering on zealotry. Mr. Bonds, then one of the world’s most famous athletes, became a prized target of the federal government’s war on steroids after his 2003 grand jury testimony.”
“But for a variety of reasons, the government’s essential case against Mr. Bonds – a case about lying under oath – crumbled,” the brief continues. “Although the federal government succeeded in tarring Mr. Bonds’s reputation, it ultimately failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he made a single false statement before the grand jury.”
Bonds was indicted in 2007 for several counts of perjury and obstruction. His lawyers say the conviction should be overturned because the statements he made to the grand jury were truthful, and the “celebrity child” statement was a mere digression, not a refusal to answer a question.
“Even if nonresponsive testimony may constitute obstruction in some cases, it did not constitute obstruction in this case for two additional reasons,” according to the brief authored by Dennis Riordan of Riordan & Hogan. “First, Mr. Bonds’s ‘celebrity child’ remark was not evasive, especially given that he repeatedly and directly answered the same question when it was repeated by prosecutors, as the law requires. The government’s claim that Mr. Bonds ‘refused to answer’ the question is flatly contradicted by the evidence. Second, Mr. Bonds’s ‘celebrity child’ remark was utterly irrelevant to the proceedings, and thus cannot have been material, which is an essential element of the offense.”
Bonds’ other attorneys include Allen Ruby with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Palo Alto, Calif., and Cristina Arguedas with Arguedas, Cassman & Headley in Berkeley.