SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Bonds’ confident defense team rested its case Wednesday without calling a single witness, just minutes after a federal judge accepted the government’s request to dismiss one of the five counts against the home run king.
Prosecutors called 25 witnesses to the stand over 2½ weeks, but the defense needed just one minute to present its side. The jury of eight women and four men barely had time to get settled in the courtroom before being told to return Thursday morning for closing arguments.
“We are expecting that you will get this case for decision tomorrow,” U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said to them. “Tomorrow will be the last day.”
Once indicted on as many as 15 counts, Bonds will face just four charges when the jury starts deliberations in a court house less than two miles from the ballpark where he set records for the Giants. A decision could come as early as Friday — when the World Series championship flag is raised in San Francisco for the first time.
Faced with a defense motion that Illston was prepared to grant, prosecutors dropped the count accusing Bonds of lying to a grand jury in 2003 when he said prior to that season he never took anything other than vitamins from trainer Greg Anderson. The defense said the government presented no evidence that Bonds was given Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) and a testosterone ointment, designer ste roids known as “The Clear” and “The Cream,” before 2003. Bonds testified in front of the grand jury that Anderson told him the substances were flaxseed oil and arthritic balm.
The remaining counts charge Bonds with lying when he denied knowingly receiving steroids from Anderson, denied getting human growth hormone from Anderson and said he only allowed himself to be injected by doctors. The final count accuses Bonds of obstruction of justice.
On the 11th day of the trial, the defense presentation lasted about the time it took Bonds to circle the bases after one of his record 762 home runs. Lawyer Cristina Arguedas read the jury one answer from the grand jury testimony of former Bonds’ girlfriend Kimberly Bell in which Bell said she wrote her own diary. That conflicts with Bell’s trial testimony, in which she said ghost writer Aphrodite Jones collaborated on the diary.
Defense lawyer Allen Ruby had said Tuesday he might call up to six witnesses, including Bonds, and every spectator seat in the court room was filled in anticipation. But Bonds’ never took the stand to tell the jury his side of the story, signaling the defense thinks the government has failed to prove its charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
Just one witness, former Bonds’ personal shopper Kathy Hoskins, gave eyewitness testimony that corroborated any of the charges. She said she once saw Anderson inject Bonds near the belly button — she didn’t identify what substance was being injected.
With Anderson in jail on a contempt citation for his refusal to testify, prosecutors had to rely on witnesses who put Bonds near Anderson and needles, along with evidence that Anderson was supplying players with performance-enhancing drugs.
If Bonds is convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison on each count. However, federal guidelines suggest a total sentence of 15 to 21 months. For similar offenses in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) case, Illston sentenced cyclist Tammy Thomas to six months of home confinement and track coach Trevor Graham to one year of home confinement.
Illston denied a defense motion to strike testimony that Bonds’ testicles shrank, which prosecutors alleged is a side effect of steroids use. She also turned down a defense motion to strike testimony from former AL MVP Jason Giambi and three former players — Jeremy Giambi, Marvin Benard and Randy Velarde — who all detailed how Anderson supplied them with steroids and human growth hormone .
With the trial nearing its end, there were interjections of humor — or at least attempts — by the lawyers. When Illston asked for a “ballpark figure” on the length of closing argument, Ruby estimated three hours and told her “I think the football people call it a hard cap.”
When Ruby said he planned to split the closing with Arguedas, Illston said “the court does not give you permission to tag team.”
Ruby then took a shot at the prosecutors, saying “we’re not going to do that like they did at the grand jury,” prompting Illston to respond “because there’s a judge here, I get to tell you.” She ultimately told them they could share the argument but could not keep alternating.