Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice Thursday and could go to prison instead of the Hall of Fame for telling a federal grand jury he did not knowingly use performance-enhancing drugs.
The indictment came just three months after the San Francisco Giants star broke Hank Aaron's career home run record, and it culminated a four-year investigation into steroid use by elite athletes.
But for all the speculation and accusations that clouded his pursuit of Aaron, Bonds was never identified by Major League Baseball as testing positive for steroids, and personal trainer Greg Anderson spent most of the last year in jail for refusing to testify against his longtime friend.
Then came the indictment - four counts of perjury, one of obstruction of justice; a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison - and Bonds' lawyers seemed caught off guard.
The 10-page report mainly consists of excerpts from Bonds' December 2003 testimony before a grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO. It cites 19 occasions in which Bonds allegedly lied under oath.
"I'm surprised," said one of his lawyers, John Burris, "but there's been an effort to get Barry for a long time. I'm curious what evidence they have now they didn't have before."
Burris said he didn't know of the indictment before being alerted by The Associated Press. He said he would call Bonds to notify him.
Anderson was released from prison after the indictment was handed up and refused comment as he walked out.
"This indictment came out of left field," Geragos said. "Frankly, I'm aghast. It looks like the government misled me and Greg as well, saying this case couldn't go forward without him."
Bonds is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Dec. 7.
Defence lawyer Mike Rains said he spoke briefly with Bonds but did not describe his reaction. At an evening news conference, he read a statement accusing federal prosecutors of "unethical misconduct" and declined to take questions.
"Every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn't know if waterboarding is torture and can't tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand and persecution on the other," Rains said.
In August, when the 43-year-old Bonds became the career home run leader, he flatly rejected any suggestion that the milestone was stained by steroids.
"This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Bonds said.
But while San Franciscans cheered his every swing and fans elsewhere scorned every homer, a grand jury quietly worked behind closed doors to put the finishing touches on its report.
"During the criminal investigation, evidence was obtained including positive tests for the presence of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances for Bonds and other athletes," the indictment said.
Bonds is by far the highest-profile figure caught up in the steroids probe, which also ensnared track star Marion Jones. She pleaded guilty in October to lying to federal investigators about using steroids and faces up to six months in prison.
The Giants, the players' union and even the White House called it a sad day for baseball.
"This is a very sad day. For many years, Barry Bonds was an important member of our team and is one of the most talented baseball players of his era. These are serious charges. Now that the judicial process has begun, we look forward to this matter being resolved in a court of law," the Giants said.
Union head Donald Fehr said he was "saddened" to learn of the indictment, but cautioned that "every defendant, including Barry Bonds, is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless and until such time as he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Commissioner Bud Selig withheld judgment, saying, "I take this indictment very seriously and will follow its progress closely."
The Hall of Fame currently has an exhibit dedicated to Bonds' record-breaking 756th home run.
"As a historic museum, we have no intention of taking the exhibit down," Hall vice president Jeff Idelson said.
Bonds finished last season with 762 career home runs, seven more than Aaron. A seven-time NL MVP, he also holds the season record with 73 home runs in 2001.
He is a free agent after being told late in the season that Giants didn't want him back next year.
Bonds was charged in the indictment with lying when he said he didn't knowingly take steroids given to him by Anderson. Bonds is also charged with lying that Anderson never injected him with steroids.
This story just has so much yummy goodness in it, doesn't it? Unsurprisingly, Bonds has been indicted for lying about using steroids and his trainer supplying him with them.
Then, just for fun, his defense lawyer Mike Rains adds in this money quote:
Every American should worry about a Justice Department that doesn't know if waterboarding is torture and can't tell the difference between prosecution on the one hand and persecution on the other.
Cuz, you know, waterboarding as "torture" is relevant and all. Listen buddy, whining about waterboarding and how much our Justice Department sucks isn't gonna take the heat off your client, so get off that high horse right now.
In any case, is anyone exactly surprised that this is happening?
I find it humorous that all these people -- the Commissioner, Union heads, etc. -- are expressing shock and sorrow over this indictment as if it was just so strange.
I guess it's because Bonds has never used steroids. He just always used "performance enhancers".
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