SAN FRANCISCO — Home run king Barry Bonds learned his fate Friday after eight years of being pursued by prosecutors in a case that began with steroid allegations: a 30-day sentence, to be served at his Beverly Hills estate.
No more — and maybe less.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston immediately delayed imposing the sentence while Bonds appeals his obstruction of justice conviction. The former baseball star was found guilty in April not of using steroids, but of misleading grand jurors.
Even without prison time, the case has left its mark on the seven-time National League MVP. His 762 career home runs, and 73 homers in 2001, may forever be seen as tainted records, and his ticket to baseball’s Hall of Fame is in doubt.
Bonds declined to speak in court. Well-wishers hugged the 47-year-old in the hallway courtroom after the hearing was over, and a smattering of fans cheered him as he left the courthouse. It was a marked departure from his initial court appearance four years ago, when guards had to clear a path for Bonds to get through dozens of onlookers to his SUV.
“Whatever he did or didn’t do, we all lie,” said Esther Picazo, a fan outside the courthouse. “We all make mistakes. But I don’t think he should’ve gotten any kind of punishment at all.”
Bonds was sentenced to two years of probation, 250 hours of community service, a $4,000 fine and 30 days of home confinement. It will take time to determine whether he serves any of it; his appellate specialist, Dennis Riordan, estimated it would take nearly a year and a half for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Parrella called the sentence a “slap on the wrist” and the fine “almost laughable” for a superstar athlete who made more than $192 million for playing baseball.
Parrella had sought 15 months in prison and argued that home confinement wasn’t punishment enough “for a man with a 15,000-square-foot house with all the advantages.” Bonds lives in a six-bedroom, 10-bath house with a gym and swimming pool.
“The defendant basically lived a double life for decades before this,” Parrella said. He ripped Bonds not only over performance-enhancing drugs but over his personal life: “He had mistresses throughout his marriages.”
Parrella said Bonds made lots of money due in part to his use of performance enhancers and that he has been “unrepentant” and “unapologetic” about it.
Illston said none of that had any bearing on Bonds’ sentencing.
She said she agreed with a probation department report that called Bonds’ conviction an “aberration” in his life. She said she received dozens of letters in support of Bonds, some discussing how he has given money and time “for decades” to charitable causes.
Bonds is the last — and highest-profile — defendant in the government’s investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO, a steroids distribution ring. The ex-slugger has long denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.
Illston said she was compelled to give Bonds a sentence similar to the two she meted out to other figures convicted after trial of lying to the grand jury and federal investigators about their connection to steroids.
The case against Bonds after he testified before the grand jury Dec. 3, 2003. Prosecutors revised his original 2007 indictment several times and spent a year unsuccessfully appealing a key evidentiary ruling before jurors deadlocked in April on three of the four remaining charges related to his grand jury testimony.
On the final charge, the trial jury convicted Bonds of purposely answering questions about steroids with rambling non sequiturs in an attempt to mislead the grand jury.
“I think he probably got off a little easy,” said Jessica Wolfram, one of the jurors who convicted Bonds of obstruction. “He was just so clearly guilty, so I actually am happy he got sentenced to something.”
Wolfram said she researched the case after the trial and viewed evidence not presented then. After that, she felt even more comfortable that Bonds was guilty.
Besides Bonds, 10 people were convicted of various charges in BALCO cases. Six of them, including track star Marion Jones, were ensnared for lying to grand jurors, federal investigators or the court. Others, including Bonds’ personal trainer Greg Anderson, pleaded guilty to steroid distribution charges.
The government’s top BALCO investigator, Jeff Novitzky, declined to comment outside the courtroom after attending the hearing.
Bonds was one of two former baseball superstars to stand trial in doping-related cases this year. The trial of pitcher Roger Clemens was halted after just two days in July because prosecutors used inadmissible evidence. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton has set a new trial for April 17.
Both men will face a different judgment day in 2013, when they’ll be eligible for the Hall of Fame.