A federal appeals court on Wednesday overturned Barry Bonds’ obstruction of justice felony conviction related to performance enhancing drugs, undoing the only criminal conviction to come from the years-long investigation of the former slugger. The 2011 conviction grew out of answers Bonds gave to a grand jury in 2003.
During the 2011 trial, “[t]he jury hung on perjury charges and convicted Bonds only of obstruction for giving a long-winded answer,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “In an unsigned 10-1 ruling [on Wednesday], the [appeals] court said there was insufficient evidence that Bonds’ rambling reply was material and that he may not be retried.”
Here’s more from the L.A. Times on how the court arrived at the most recent ruling in the long-winding case:
The ruling overturned a unanimous 2013 decision by a three-judge panel that upheld the conviction. That 9th Circuit panel ruled that someone may be convicted of obstruction for making factually true statements if they are intended to mislead or evade. Bonds decided to serve his sentence -- house arrest -- and paid a fine, but also asked a larger panel to review the ruling. Bonds’ lawyer argued that the former slugger could not be found guilty for giving a long-winded answer to a question he eventually answered. Prosecutors argued that his response was a lie and intended to mislead, but the jury did not find Bonds guilty of perjury…
The [obstruction of justice] conviction stemmed from Bonds’ reply to a federal prosecutor about whether his former trainer, Greg Anderson, had ever given him an injectable substance. The following exchange before the grand jury in 2003 formed the basis of his conviction:
Prosecutor: "Did Greg ever give you anything that required a syringe to inject yourself with?"
Bonds: "I’ve only had one doctor touch me. And that’s my only personal doctor. Greg, like I said, we don’t get into each others' personal lives. We’re friends, but ... we don’t sit around and talk baseball, because he knows I don’t want -- don’t come to my house talking baseball. If you want to come to my house and talk about fishing, some other stuff, we’ll be good friends. You come around talking about baseball, you go on. I don’t talk about his business. You know what I mean?"
Bonds: "That’s what keeps our friendship. You know, I am sorry, but that -- you know, that -- I was a celebrity child, not just in baseball by my own instincts. I became a celebrity child with a famous father. I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see. ..."
Prosecutor: "And, again, I guess we've covered this, but -- did [Anderson] ever give you anything that he told you had to be taken with a needle or syringe?"
Bonds: "Greg wouldn't do that. He knows I'm against that stuff. So, he would never come up to me -- he would never jeopardize our friendship like that."
Prosecutor: "OK. So, just so I'm clear, the answer is no to that, he never gave you anything like that?"
“Bonds never failed a performance-enhancing drug test administered by Major League Baseball; testing for steroids began in 2003,” the New York Times notes. “He has never admitted to knowingly taking banned drugs, though news media reports and books, particularly ‘Game of Shadows’ in 2006, made strong cases that he had used performance-enhancing drugs. Yet Bonds was found guilty mostly in the court of public opinion."