SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Barry Bonds' attorney accused the government of relying on the testimony of bitter and unreliable witnesses in his opening arguments Tuesday morning at the baseball star's federal perjury trial.
A federal prosecutor maintained in his opening statement that Bonds knowingly lied about using anabolic steroids obtained from his personal trainer.
One of the prosecution's star witnesses is Bonds' childhood friend and former personal assistant Steve Hoskins, who has told investigators that Bonds confided in him about his steroid use.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella told jurors that during spring training, Bonds and former trainer Greg Anderson would "disappear alone into a bedroom, usually after breakfast, for about 10 minutes." Hoskins once "walked by and saw aftermath of an injection; Greg Anderson with a syringe and the defendant arranging his clothes," the prosecutor said.
When called to testify before a federal grand jury, Bonds explained that he thought he was taking were flax seed oil and arthritis cream. At trial on Tuesday, defense attorney Allen Ruby objected when Parrella said Bonds' was an "utterly ridiculous and unbelievable story."
During his opening statement, Ruby said Hoskins testified in exchange for "a form of amnesty" for his other alleged crimes. The former San Francisco Giants hitter claims to have informed the FBI that Hoskins was selling counterfeit Bonds memorabilia.
"Pretty early on, the government understood that there was a conflict here, that is the main accuser of Barry Bonds was himself being accused of very serious crimes, federal felonies," Ruby said. "Well the government solved that problem. Sometime in 2005, the U.S. government made the decision to give Steve Hoskins a form of amnesty. Right after that happened, Mr. Hoskins enthusiastically provided services to the government."
Ruby said Bonds had found himself being questioned about the Hoskins inquiry during his testimony in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative steroids inquiry.
The defense attorney also pointed out that Hoskins may have a vendetta against Bonds for firing him as his personal assistant in 2003. "Barry made certain discoveries of contracts that he supposedly entered into that he never signed," Ruby said. "And they were signed by Steve Hoskins and involved lots of money that seemed to be pulling in ways Barry couldn't understand. This was very unwelcome to Mr. Hoskins, to put it mildly."
Federal prosecutors also planned to call Bonds' former mistress Kimberly Bell to testify that Bonds had told her about abusing steroids, but Ruby said her motives have been colored by their 2003 breakup, which Ruby called "very, very unfriendly."
"The bitterness of these people toward Barry that surfaced around the time of the breakup and afterward was very pervasive, very strong," Ruby said. "They had used, or at least cooperated with the media as sources in many of the poisonous things that have been out there about Barry. What they tried to do was create a caricature of Barry Bonds as a terrible guy, always bad, mean. And Barry is not a caricature, he's a man."
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