3/27/2011

By Brittany Clement

            It’s official – the Barry Bonds trial began this week, bringing with it salacious statements about shrunken testicles and insertion of syringes into Bonds’ buttocks.  (It’s hard to believe the government has spent $6 million on this.)  Bonds faces four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice relating to statements he made to a grand jury in 2003 about his use of performance enhancing drugs.  Here’s a quick rundown of the week’s highlights:

Monday, March 21:

            Eight women and four men were chosen as jury members, most of whom said they were not sports fans.  Of particular note – as further proof that no one cares about Bonds’ steroid use anymore, the New York Timesreported that only a handful of photographers showed up to snap photos of Bonds entering the courtroom and less than a dozen people waited outside the courtroom for seats.  See Juliet Macur, Bonds Trial Has a Jury, New York Times, March 21, 2011.

Tuesday, March 22:

            Greg Anderson, Bonds’ childhood friend and personal trainer, again refused to testify against Bonds as the government officially opened its case against Bonds.  The presiding judge ordered Anderson to jail for contempt of court, where he will remain for the duration of the trial unless he unexpectedly changes his mind and decides to testify.  According to the New York Times, Anderson’s repeated unwillingness to testify may lead the government to charge him with obstruction of justice, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.  See Juliet Macur, Continued Silence Brings Increased Risk for Bonds’s Trainer, New York Times, March 22, 2010.  Anderson previously spent time in jail for refusing to testify against Bonds before a grand jury in 2007, and his continued refusal to testify has delayed the government’s case and caused the presiding judge to suppress some of the government’s most incriminating evidence against Bonds.  Given that the government has already spent $6 million in its effort to send Bonds to prison and has threatened Anderson’s family members with criminal charges unless he took the stand, it is unsurprising that the government would drum up charges against Anderson, thereby continuing to waste time and money on an issue that harmed no one but the record books and the athletes themselves.

            The government opened its case against Bonds without Anderson, claiming Bonds’ defense that he did not know Anderson gave him steroids was “an utterly ridiculous and unbelievable story.”  Bonds’ lead lawyer Allen Ruby countered that Bonds has admitted using substances that later turned out to be steroids but that Bonds and other athletes did not know they were steroids at the time because they were new to the market.  See Juliet Macur, Government Lays Out Case Against Bonds, New York Times, March 22, 2010. 

            Ruby also sought to diminish the credibility of two key government witnesses – Bonds’ former mistress Kimberly Bell and former friend and personal assistant Steve Hoskins – who did not end their relationships with Bonds amicably.  Hoskins testified later in the week.  Bell will testify next week.

Wednesday, March 23:

            Hoskins took the stand against Bonds, and the government introduced the much-contested 2003 recording Hoskins made between himself and Anderson, in which Anderson spoke of injecting Bonds with undetectable steroids.  Hoskins testified that Bonds asked him to research steroids in 1999, that Anderson left Bonds’ bedroom at spring training carrying a syringe, and that Bonds’ shoe and hat sizes increased in the early 2000s.  The government and Ruby primarily sparred over Hoskins’ motive in making the recording and testifying against Bonds.  The government argued Hoskins became concerned about Bonds’ health and made the recording to convince Bonds’ father that Bonds was using steroids so he would help Hoskins stop Bonds’ use.  Ruby argued Hoskins made the recording to get back at Bonds for firing him, although Hoskins claimed he quit his job as Bonds’ personal assistant and offered inconsistent dates for when he made the recording, meaning it is unclear whether he made the recording before or after his falling out with Bonds.  See Juliet Macur, “At Bonds Trial, Focus Shifts to Secret Recordings,” New YorkTimes, March 23, 2010.

            Even if the jury doesn’t believe Hoskins has an ulterior motive, the most obvious flaw in his recording is it doesn’t prove Bonds knew Anderson injected him with steroids.  It only proves Anderson knew he was injecting Bonds and raises a question that if drug tests couldn’t detect the steroids, they may have been new and therefore unknown to athletes such as Bonds.  Likewise, the increased hat and shoe size only show potential steroid use, not knowledge, and may come off to the jury as desperate attempts by the government to get Bonds through all possible evidence.

Thursday, March 24:

            The government moved beyond hat and shoe size on Thursday by bringing anti-doping expert Larry Bowers to the stand to testify about steroids’ effects on male testicles.  Bowers provided detailed testimony on the different categories of steroids, how each is injected, and just how much shrinkage they can cause (a quarter of an inch on average, for the record).  Prosecutors hope to link Bowers’ testimony to Bell’s next week, when she will testify as to Bonds’ bodily changes, including smaller testicles and increased body acne.  See Juliet Macur,Barry Bonds Jury Hears About Science of Steroids, New York Times, March 24, 2010.

            I’ve already written about the ridiculousness of the testicle testimony and it appears the jurors took it the same way.  The New York Times reported that some jurors raised their eyebrows and giggled during Bowers’ testimony.  Id. With Bell slated to take the stand next week, along with a former San Francisco Giants equipment manager who will provide more evidence of changes in Bonds’ hat and shoe size, it appears the sensationalism will continue.  What is unclear is what this evidence proves – again, the perjury charges require Bonds knew he was taking steroids – and what effect it will have on a predominantly female jury.

A Look Ahead:

            As mentioned above, next week, Bell and a former Giants equipment manager will provide links to Bowers’ testimony about bodily changes attributable to steroid use.  Dr. Arthur Ting, Bonds’ orthopedic surgeon, will also testify next week, likely about conversations he had with Hoskins regarding Bonds’ steroid use.  The trial could go on for another three weeks.