Feds rest in Bonds case after losing bid on secret tape

Posted April 05, 2011, at 6:06 p.m.
Last modified April 05, 2011, at 6:59 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Prosecutors rested their case against Barry Bonds on Tuesday as the judge turned down their late bid to get a newly discovered audio tape of two key witnesses heard by the jury.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston refused to let the panel listen to a tape recording of a conversation between Bonds’ orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Arthur Ting, and his former business partner, Steve Hoskins.

Prosecutors had hoped to use the recording win back some of the momentum they lost last week when Ting directly contradicted Hoskins, who was a star witness and claimed the pair had repeatedly discussed the home run king and steroids.

Illston, however, said much of the tape was inaudible, and what could be heard was irrelevant and inadmissible.

Prosecutors finished presenting their evidence by having court staff read a transcript of Bonds’ December 2003 grand jury testimony.

The former baseball star is charged with three counts of lying during that court appearance when he denied knowingly taking steroids and human growth hormone. He is also charged with one count of lying when he testified that only Ting has ever injected him with any substance and one count of obstruction.

After the grand jury transcript was finished, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella told the judge “at this point, the government rests.” Asked about the defense’s case, Bonds lawyer Allen Ruby said that if the slugger were to testify it would be Wednesday, though that had not been decided.

Earlier Tuesday, the 10th day of the trial, four lab employees testified about the handling and testing Bonds urine samples collected in 2003. One of those samples later yielded a positive test for the designer steroid THG, which is also known as “the clear.”

Bonds’ attorney Allen Ruby told the jury during opening statements two weeks ago that Bonds unknowingly took steroids. Ruby said that Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, provided him with designer steroids that he was misled to believe were flaxseed oil and arthritis cream.

Prosecutors’ task has been to prove that Bonds knew he was taking performance-enhancing drugs when he was breaking the single season home run mark in 2001 and Hank Aaron’ career home run mark, which he did in 2007.

Bonds’ former mistress, Kimberly Bell, testified that he once told her that he used steroids and that she witnessed the slugger undergo physical and behavioral changes prosecutors allege are side effects of steroid use.

Defense attorney Cristina Arguedas tried to portray Bell as a vengeful ex-girlfriend who posed nude for Playboy magazine and appeared on tawdry radio and television talk shows to get back at Bonds.

Prosecutors also hoped to rely on Hoskins’ testimony to show Bonds knew he was taking steroids.

Hoskins testified that in 2003 he was becoming increasingly concerned that Bonds was using steroids, and that he had about 50 conversations with Ting regarding those fears. He also testified that he secretly recorded one of those conversations, but had lost it shortly afterward.

Last week, Ting flatly denied ever discussing steroids and Bonds with Hoskins.

On Sunday, Hoskins found the recording he thought he lost and turned it over to prosecutors. On Tuesday, prosecutors urged the judge to let them play the recording for the jury.

“Hoskins’s credibility on the issue of his conversations with Ting is critical to the government’s case that the defendant’s statements to the grand jury were knowingly false and for the purpose of obstructing justice,” prosecutors wrote in a brief filed with Illston.

Bonds lawyers argued that the recording was illegally made — state law requires both parties consent to a recorded conversation — and was done at a time when Hoskins was under investigation for defrauding Bonds. Bonds complained to the FBI in early 2003 that Hoskins was selling Bonds’ memorabilia without his permission.

“If the recording is indeed of a Hoskins-Ting conversation, it was made in an attempt to extort Mr. Bonds after Bonds fired Hoskins in the spring of 2003,” Bonds’ attorneys wrote.

The judge simply said the tape was mostly inaudible and that the conversation appears to be a one-sided exchange, dominated by Hoskins discussing news coverage of the federal raid of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative in September 2003. BALCO was the center of a steroids distribution ring that included Anderson, Bonds’ trainer.

After the prosecution rested, Illston dismissed the jury for the day, though the judge and lawyers were to meet later.

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