March 10, 2006

Steroid allegations could bring Bonds legal woes

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Intense scrutiny over whether
baseball superstar Barry Bonds used steroids, as a new book
charges, could prompt an investigation of whether he lied to a
federal grand jury, experts said on Friday.

The single-season home-run holder testified in late 2003
before a grand jury investigating the BALCO steroid scandal,
telling them he never knowingly used steroids, his lawyer Mike
Rains has said. Bonds has never failed a drug test.

A new book, however, cites documents from the BALCO case,
interviews and a former lover to describe a player who
deliberately used steroids for at least five seasons.

Bonds received immunity for his testimony in the BALCO
case, which led to imprisonment of his personal trainer Greg
Anderson and of BALCO chief Victor Conte on steroid
distribution charges.

However, "If you lie to a grand jury you absolutely can be
prosecuted, notwithstanding an immunity agreement," said
Matthew Jacobs, a former first assistant U.S. Attorney in
Sacramento. Perjury charges could bring a maximum punishment of
five years in prison.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco have declined to
discuss the case. Stephen Freccero, an attorney who worked in
that office from 1989-98, said officials would probably
consider the latest allegations.

"I would certainly expect that the government would review
it carefully," he said. "Perjury is very serious, but it is
notoriously difficult to prove."

Freccero and other legal experts cautioned it is difficult
to predict what would happen because the grand jury testimony
has not been made public. How questions were worded and
answered could prove key.


At spring training in Arizona this week, Bonds, who at 708
home runs could pass Babe Ruth (714) for second place on the
career homer list this year, declined to discuss steroids.

But in December 2004, his lawyer Rains gave details about
the grand jury testimony.

"The government offered him immunity before he testified,"
he said. "Bonds said: ... no, I'm not going to take the
immunity, I've got nothing to hide.'

"I told Barry, 'You're going to take immunity."'

Rains condemned the upcoming book "Game of Shadows" this
week without addressing specifics. But his 2004 remarks could
foreshadow a defense should Bonds be questioned further.

"Barry testified truthfully before the grand jury," Rains
said then. He said Bonds never knowing used anabolic steroids.
"Barry had no reason to believe that he was taking anything
illegal ... We still know those were not illegal substances at
that time."

"He used what Greg gave him."

Trainer Anderson, released from prison last week, declined
to comment.

BALCO head Conte, named in the new book as providing Bonds
with performance-enhancing drugs, wrote Reuters this week to
say he would speak out after his release on March 30.

"There has been a lot of misinformation published and I am
looking forward to an opportunity to set the record straight,"
Conte wrote from Camp Taft correctional institution in

Another possible legal headache for Bonds could stem from
the book's allegation that his lover Kimberly Bell received
money from him that he did not report to tax authorities. She
did not return calls this week for comment.

Mark Lessler, a spokesman for the Internal Revenue
Service's criminal investigation office, declined to discuss
Bonds. "We try to investigate every allegation that has some
merit," he said. "Not every allegation is accurate or true."