Bond's lawyers argue against counts

November 5, 2008 5:54:24 PM PST
Lawyers for home run champion Barry Bonds will be in federal court in San Francisco on Wednesday, seeking dismissal of 10 of the 15 criminal counts pending against the former San Francisco Giants slugger.

Bonds, 44, is charged with making 14 false statements and obstructing justice in 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating sports steroids distribution by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.

He has pleaded not guilty and is due to go to trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in March.

In a pretrial motion, Bonds' six defense lawyers contend that 10 of the counts should be dismissed for a variety of reasons, including a claim that some of the questions posed to Bonds in the grand jury session were "fundamentally ambiguous."

Illston has given Bonds permission to be absent from the courtroom during a hearing on the motion tomorrow.

On one of the counts, Bonds' lawyers contend a prosecutor's question was "fatally ambiguous" when Bonds was asked whether he had ever taken steroids "or anything like that." Bonds answered that he hadn't.

His lawyers argued in papers filed with Illston that the question was imprecise because "steroid pharmacology is dizzyingly complex" and the list of prohibited substances changes yearly.

Prosecutors have argued in response that the questions they posed to Bonds before the grand jury were in "plain language" and that Bonds never expressed any confusion when answering them.

The defense attorneys also claim another count is defective because prosecutors left out a crucial word, "material," in a charge that Bonds made a false statement that was material, or relevant, to the grand jury probe.

Bonds, now a free agent, set the Major League Baseball record for career home runs while playing for the Giants last year.

Even if Bonds wins the bid for dismissal of 10 counts, he would still face five counts of false statements in the March trial.

Each count carries a theoretical maximum sentence of five years in prison. But two other BALCO probe defendants who were convicted of false statements, former cycling champion Tammy Thomas and former Olympic track coach Trevor Graham, were sentenced by Illston last month to home confinement and probation.


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