Barry Bonds, baseball's all-time home runs leader, will be seated in the defendant's chair Monday at a federal courthouse in San Francisco as his long-awaited perjury trial begins, the culmination of an investigation of performance-enhancing drug use that has spanned nearly a decade.
The case, officially named USA v. Barry Bonds, will reach the trial stage with jury selection Monday, opening what would appear to be the final chapter in a case that has the seven-time National League Most Valuable Player facing four charges of perjury and one charge of obstruction of justice.
The trial, to be conducted at the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, is expected to last 3-4 weeks. Federal prosecutors are prepared to call Bonds' former mistress and several former Major League players to testify, following months of legal wrangling about what will be admissible in the trial.
The case stems from Bonds' grand-jury testimony on Dec. 4, 2003, relating to the U.S. government's raid of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), a firm that Bonds employed toward the latter part of his 22-year Major League career and an organization that is known to have produced performance-enhancing drugs used by several other prominent athletes.
The prosecution alleges that Bonds lied to the grand jury when asked if he was ever given or was administered anabolic steroids, testosterone or human growth hormone with needles by personal trainer Greg Anderson during the period from 2000 to 2002. Bonds denied knowingly using performance-enhancing substances.
Dozens of news organizations have applied to cover the trial, which was set in motion when Bonds was indicted in November 2007. He has pleaded not guilty.
Judge Susan Illston, who has presided over numerous cases surrounding the BALCO investigation, will hear the Bonds case, and she has ruled on dozens of motions relating to the slugger's prosecution over the last several months.
Throughout the pre-trial process, the prosecution, represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Parrella and Jeffrey Nedrow, and defense attorneys, led by Allen Ruby, have wrangled over a variety of issues, including the admissibility of testimony from players such as former All-Stars Jason Giambi and Benito Santiago, and the relevance of voicemails and other communication between Bonds and his mistress, Kimberly Bell.
Illston ruled recently that the jury would be seated anonymously, denying a motion by lawyers for media organizations seeking the names of the jurors during the trial process. The two sides have agreed to an 18-page questionnaire with 63 questions, including whether they have attended Giants games the last five years, whether they've heard about athletes abusing steroids and how much they use the Internet.
On Thursday, Illston ruled that angry voicemails Bonds left for his mistress of nine years could not be used in the trial. Prosecutors intended to include the voicemails to demonstrate Bonds was experiencing "steroid rage" when contacting Bell, but Illston said the communication between the two lovers had little relevance to proving Bonds lied when he denied knowingly taking steroids. Bell has told investigators that Bonds told her of his steroid use.
Earlier, Illston ruled that prosecutors can use the testimony of other baseball players, such as Giambi and Santiago, who worked with Anderson to support their position that the trainer supplied Bonds with the same drugs and instructions.
However, she has ruled that evidence pertaining to Anderson's relationship with Bonds is hearsay, due in large part to Anderson's refusal to testify at the trial. Anderson has served more than a year in prison for refusing to testify to the grand jury, and is subject to more jail time if he again refuses to testify at the perjury trial, as his attorney has steadfastly maintained he will.
Each count against Bonds carries a potential sentence of 10 years in prison, but federal sentencing guidelines for a first offense on these charges generally call for a total sentence of 15 to 21 months. Previous BALCO cases include world-class cyclist Tammy Thomas being sentenced to six months of house arrest and former track coach Trevor Graham to one year of house arrest for lying to the grand jury. BALCO founder Victor Conte served four months in prison and four months of house arrest for conspiracy to distribute anabolic steroids and one felony count of money laundering.
Bonds, now 46, hit 762 home runs in his career, surpassing Hank Aaron's previous career record of 755 in 2007. A 14-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner whose seven MVP awards are a record, Bonds set the single-season mark for homers with 73 in 2001. He also stands as the all-time leader in walks with 2,558 and intentional walks with 688 and remains the only player to record 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases.
The son of three-time All-Star Bobby Bonds and the godson of Hall of Famer Willie Mays, Bonds played for the Pirates for seven seasons (1986-92) before signing as a free agent with his hometown Giants prior to the 1993 season, leading the National League with 46 homers and 123 RBIs that year to claim his third NL MVP honor. Bonds later won four consecutive MVP honors, from 2001-04.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.