SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge told two San Francisco Chronicle reporters they must comply with a subpoena and tell a grand jury who leaked them secret testimony of Barry Bonds and other elite athletes ensnared in the government's steroid probe.
The decision by US District Judge Jeffrey White means reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada must appear before a grand jury investigating the leak unless a higher court blocks the ruling. They have said they would not testify and would go to jail rather than reveal their source or sources.
``Lance and I are firmly standing behind our sources," Fainaru-Wada said after the decision.
The two reporters published articles and a book based partly on transcripts of testimony by Bonds, Jason Giambi, and others who testified in the grand jury investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Known as BALCO, the Burlingame, Calif.-based nutritional supplement company was exposed as a steroid ring.
The criminal conduct being investigated in the Bonds leak case includes possible perjury and obstruction of justice by government officials, defendants in the BALCO probe and their attorneys. All of them had access to the documents, but have sworn they weren't the source of the leak.
The government told White that its investigation has turned up empty, and that Williams and Fainaru-Wada are the last hope of finding the culprit or culprits.
White said his hands were tied by a 1972 Supreme Court precedent that no one was above the law and may refuse to testify before a federal grand jury.
White added that Congress has not adopted a shield law to protect journalists from testifying before grand juries. Most states have shielded reporters from testifying on behalf of the government in state criminal probes.
``The court finds itself bound by the law governing this case to subordinate [the reporters'] interests to the interests of the grand jury," White ruled.